WASHINGTON–Armenia’s defense minister Serge Sarkissian arrived in Washington on Sunday and met with US Secretary of Defense William Cohen Monday–when the two military leaders signed a agreement on ending the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The agreement that Minister Sarkissian and I have just signed is important for two reasons. It will help Armenia to improve its customs and border patrol services in order to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction. In addition–the agreement will strengthen cooperation between Armenia and the United States," said Cohen following his meeting during a joint briefing at the Pentagon.
"In working together to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction–the United States will provide Armenia with $300,000 of equipment and training. The equipment will include nuclear and contraband detection kits to help Armenian authorities to prevent the unauthorized transportation of nuclear–chemical and biological weapons and components," added Cohen.
"Earlier this year we agreed to assist Armenia with de-mining–training and equipment to help clear land-mines left by the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh with Azerbaijan. The US supports the cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan and encourages negotiations between the presidents of the two countries to reach a durable peace settlement," continued the Secretary of Defense.
"I am glad that during this visit a document will be signed which will prevent the distribution and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Armenia is against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction–and the government of the Republic of Armenia understands the region it is in," said Sarkissian during the briefing.
"We also discussed a very important issue with the Honorable Mr. Secretary–which is the issue of humanitarian de-mining–and we found some areas of mutual interest. We believe that after the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is solved–the military cooperation between Armenia and the United States will get started and will start. We hope that the settlement of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh will come soon," expressed Armenia’s defense minister.
During the question and answer portion of the briefing–Cohen clarified that the agreement signed between Armenia and the US did not envision troop involvement in Armenia–adding that the agreement "it pertains to the transfer of equipment and some training–but not on any troop involvement."
Cohen added that training will be conducted by US civilian personnel from the Department of Defense–Customs Service and the FBI.
"We do not have a military-to-military relationship [with Armenia] with the exception of dealing with humanitarian de-mining and other types of military-to-military cooperation dealing with promotion of democratic institutions–rule of law–and civilian control of the military. So we do have contact in those exceptions that are carved out under Section 907–but those are the only exceptions that we have. This–as far as the transfer of equipment–it will pertain to border control and their customs people–so that will be where the training and equipment will take place," clarified Cohen.
The Armenian defense ministry press service reported that Sarkissian is also scheduled to meet high-level officials in the State Department and discuss with them the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process–as well as issues of regional security and stability.
Sarkissian will return to Yerevan Wednesday.