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Armenian President Says 'Committed' To Arms Control Treaty

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian

YEREVAN -- Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian says Yerevan will continue to abide by a key international arms control treaty despite its being "violated" by Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

In a meeting with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller on October 18, who deals with arms control issues, Sarkisian described the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty as "one of the pillars of security and stability in Europe."

He said Yerevan therefore remains committed to the treaty's "spirit and aims" and will comply with its limitations.

Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian gave similar assurances in a separate meeting with Gottemoeller.

But according to a Foreign Ministry statement, Nalbandian also said the CFE needs to be "updated." The statement gave no details.

Signed in 1990 and revised in 1999, the CFE puts specific limits on the deployment of troops and heavy weapons from the U.S. coast on the Atlantic Ocean to Russia's Ural Mountains. Armenia as well as neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan signed the CFE after gaining independence 20 years ago.

Despite setting equal arms ceilings for the three South Caucasus states, the treaty has failed to prevent an intensifying arms race between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Baku has spent billions of dollars in oil revenue on a military build-up which Azerbaijan hopes will eventually enable it to win back the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region and other Armenian-controlled territory.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have long accused each other of exceeding their CFE quotas.

Sarkisian was quoted by his press office as saying that the alleged Azerbaijani noncompliance "has already created a serious danger for the entire region."

Nalbandian likewise complained to Gottemoeller about Azerbaijan's "overt violation" of CFE terms.

Azerbaijani officials deny such claims. They say that Armenia itself keeps a large part of its heavy weaponry in Karabakh in order to appear to comply with the CFE treaty.

A senior U.S. diplomat said privately earlier this year that neither country is honoring its CFE commitments.

The CFE allows signatory states to inspect each other's compliance with the arms ceilings through random visits to just about any military facility.

But in a gentlemen's agreement reached in the 1990s, the Armenian and Azerbaijani militaries have never sent CFE inspectors to view each other's military assets.