YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Azerbaijan has reportedly protested to France and Germany against the apparent acquisition by Armenia’s armed forces of anti-tank missiles jointly developed by the two NATO member states.
The complaint reported by the Azerbaijani news agency APA on Thursday stems from a photograph of the MILAN anti-tank system that was posted late last month on Razm.info, an Armenian news website specializing in defense and security. The online publication said the picture was taken last year during an exhibition at Armenia’s Defense Ministry that featured weapons manufactured or modernized by Armenian companies.
It said the French-German guided missiles produced since the early 1970s were upgraded with Armenian-made electronic devices. Razm.info called the Armenian army’s possession of MILANs a “serious development.” No further details were reported.
Azerbaijani news agencies were quick to pick up the report. Citing unnamed military sources, APA said that the Azerbaijani authorities have demanded that the French and German embassies in Baku explain “how those systems ended up in Armenia.”
France’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, Pascal Meunier, told reporters in Baku last week that the French government is “investigating the credibility of that information.” He said French or German arms sales to Armenia are “very unlikely” because they would violate a Western embargo on arms deliveries to the parties of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
MILAN’s current principal manufacturer is the Euromissile consortium based in France. The missile systems originally designed by French and German companies in the 1960s are also license-built by several other NATO member states as well as India. They have been in service in over 40 countries.
The Armenian Defense Ministry declined to confirm or refute the MILAN acquisition on Thursday. The ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service only that Armenia is continuing to “develop our defense capability.”
Speaking to journalists last December, the commander of Karabakh’s Armenia-backed army, General Movses Hakobian, listed anti-tank rockets among new weapons which he said were supplied to his forces in 2011 and 2012. He did not elaborate on their type and origin.
The news of Armenia’s purported possession of MILAN came just days after it emerged that Russia has begun supplying roughly $1 billion worth of new military hardware to Azerbaijan. According to the Russian media, the arms consignment purchased by Baku includes more than 90 battle tanks. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said at an ensuing military parade that his country will continue buying weapons to force the Armenians to give up control over Karabakh and surrounding territories.