YEREVAN (RFE?RL)—A team of Armenian army officers has visited Turkish military bases deployed along Turkey’s border with Armenia to verify Ankara’s compliance with a key international arms control treaty.
The Armenian Defense Ministry reported on Tuesday that its representatives travelled to Turkey on November 26 and spent a week counting tanks, artillery systems and other military hardware at an army brigade and a regiment headquartered in the border towns of Kars and Igdir respectively. Both units are part of the Turkish Third Army deployed in the country’s northeast.
A Defense Ministry statement said the Armenian officers also held a “briefing” with Turkish military commanders on the ground on “combat issues, trainings and general issues.”
The statement added that the weeklong inspection detected no violations of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty by Ankara.
Signed in 1990 and revised in 1999, the CFE places specific limits on the deployment of troops and heavy weapons from the Atlantic coast to Russia’s Ural mountains. Armenia as well as neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan signed up to the treaty after gaining independence.
Signatories to the treaty are allowed to inspect each other’s compliance with the arms ceilings through random visits to practically any military facility. Military delegations from Turkey and other NATO member states have regularly traveled to Armenia for this purpose since the mid-1990s. The Armenian military first sent a group of CFE inspectors to eastern Turkey in March 2010.
The mutual inspections by the Armenian and Turkish armed forces have taken place despite the absence of diplomatic relations between the two neighboring states. Neither side has accused the other of violating the CFE.
By contrast, Armenia and Azerbaijan have long been accusing one another of exceeding their equal arms quotas set by the Cold War-era treaty. Azerbaijan says that Armenia keeps a large part of its weaponry in Nagorno-Karabakh to imitate its compliance with the pact. Armenian officials, for their part, say that Baku is obstructing international inspections of its military facilities.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani militaries have never sent CFE inspectors to each other’s units in line with a gentleman’s agreement dating back to the 1990s.