YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’s leadership and Russia’s visiting Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov pledged to step up the already close military cooperation between their nations as they held talks in Yerevan on Tuesday.
Serdyukov’s one-day visit to Armenia involved separate meetings with President Robert Kocharian, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian and Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunian as well as a visit to Russian troops stationed in the country.
"The two sides discussed issues pertaining to military-technical cooperation between the two countries, expressing their satisfaction with the level and quality of their partnership in this sphere," Kocharian’s office said in a short statement.
According to the Armenian government’s press service, Serdyukov told Sarkisian that his visit "will give new impetus" to the development of Russian-Armenian military ties. Sarkisian was quoted as saying that those ties "stem from our national interests" and that Yerevan "will do everything to further deepen and develop them."
A separate statement by the Armenian Defense Ministry said Serdyukov and Harutiunian approved a "plan of cooperation" between their ministries for next year. They also discussed preparations for the next Russian-Armenian military exercises to be held in 2008, the statement said.
Serdyukov, accompanied by Harutiunian, visited the northern city of Gumri earlier in the day to inspect facilities of the Russian military base stationed in the area close to the Armenian-Turkish border. "I wanted to personally familiarize myself with how our servicemen live here, what problems they face," he told reporters there. "Those are primarily social and logistical."
"I think that we will draw certain conclusions after the trip and take measures to improve the condition of the base," the Russian minister said.
The Russian base has been reinforced in the last few years with military hardware and other equipment that belonged to Russian troops which are currently being pulled out of neighboring Georgia.