YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The opening of the Armenian National Mine Clearing Center took place on March 16 in the city of Echmiadzin. A contract for establishing the ANMCC was signed between the Armenian Defense Ministry and the US Defense Department. The establishment of the center–still the only one in the Transcaucasus–was the result of the cooperation of the US State Department and the US Defense Department with the Armenian Defense Ministry. The contribution of the US side is the reparation of the building meant for the center–the demining equipment supply–and the preparation of a corresponding staff of the Armenian Defense Ministry.
"I am sure that there will be no more military operations–that’s why we took up the creation center for demining territories," indicated Serge Sargsian. In his words–the necessity of the creation of the center is conditioned by the indispensability of clearing off the consequences of the conflict. The establishment of the center at the Defense Ministry has a great significance both for the military forces and for the population of the borderline regions. The minister accentuated that the presence of the mined areas is a great danger for the population–especially when the mining was carried out not by military sections. According to Sargsian–the program of demining also has moral and psychological significance–since it may inspire confidence in the local residents that there will be no war.
US Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway pointed out that the creation of the center is a perfect example of the Armenian-American cooperation. He added that the US State Department carried out not only the repair work of the building but also ensured the arrival of dog-training instructors–and the US Defense Department special appointment inspectors will arrive in the summer. However–the basic demining work will be carried out by Armenia. "Anti-infantry mines are the basic danger. The victims are often civilians–and not servicemen," stressed the ambassador.
As the head of the Foreign Ministry Chief Headquarters–deputy Minister of Defense Mikael Harutiunian indicated–there are still many mine fields in Syunik–Tavush–Lachin–which are a great danger for civilians. Harutiunian said that the quantity of the mines planted by the Azeri is beyond 100 thousand. The basic aim of the center is the purchase of special equipment for detecting mines and rendering them harmless–retraining of sappers–demining of mine areas with the help of American specialists–and rendering anti-tank mines harmless. According to Harutiunian–the demining will begin in 3-4 months. The choice of the location of the center is conditioned by the presence of a building – the former tank regiment headquarters with the engineering-sapper regiment nearby.