YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian expects Armenia’s military cooperation with the United States to broaden in the near future after a series of high-level meetings he held in Washington last week.
Seyran Ohanian paid a working visit to the United States on March 19-23 during which he met at the Pentagon with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and also held meetings with other senior American officials, including CIA Director David Petraeus.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Thursday, the Armenian defense minister said military cooperation with the United States was in its “normal course”.
“It expands from year to year particularly in terms of assistance in the implementation of reforms and on the level of expertise on all matters,” Ohanian said. “We will expand our cooperation within the framework of existing programs.”
In April, the U.S. and Armenian militaries are expected to hold their first-ever joint exercises aimed at improving the interoperability of their forces deployed in Afghanistan. A top official from the U.S. European Command discussed preparations for the weeklong exercises with Ohanian during a visit to Yerevan last month.
Plans for the landmark drills were first made public after Armenian Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan paid a visit to Washington in July 2011 for what official Yerevan described as “defense consultations” with U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow and other senior Pentagon officials.
Tonoyan visited Washington shortly after Armenia almost tripled its participation in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan. It currently has about 130 troops on the ground.
During Ohanian’s March 23 meeting at the Pentagon, U.S. Defense Chief Panetta also expressed appreciation for Yerevan’s “strong contributions” to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo.