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Armenia Reacts To Georgian 'Concerns' Over Military Deal With Russia

Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze
YEREVAN -- Armenian officials have reacted with surprise that Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze reportedly described Armenia's defense agreement with Russia as a threat to regional security, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Vashadze was quoted by the Azerbaijani news agency APA on September 7 as saying that the Yerevan-Moscow deal signed last month extending Russia's lease on a military base in Armenia until 2044 and upgrading its mission will impede "stability, security, and cooperation" in the South Caucasus.

He was also quoted by APA as saying "the sole goal of the Russian military base is to heighten tension in the region. The extension of the term of that base's deployment in Armenia by 24 years and the change in its functions poses a big threat to the region."

The Georgian Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment on September 8. The ministry spokeswoman did not respond to phone calls throughout the day.

Vashadze's reported remarks were at odds with Tbilisi's initial reaction to the Russian-Armenian pact that was voiced by Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalanadze.

Kalanadze said in late August that Yerevan remained "conscious of threats to Georgia emanating from Russia." She added that "we have no reason to suspect that Armenia is calling regional security into question in any way."

Commenting on the statement attributed to Vashadze, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan told RFE/RL, "We do not share that view." He also suggested that it was distorted by the government-controlled Azerbaijani media outlet.

"In any case, no foreign official has the right to meddle in our affairs and make comments on our security issues," Balayan said. He added that Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian would telephone Vashadze to discuss the matter.

Vashadze met with Armenia's ambassador in Tbilisi, Hrach Silvanian, on August 31, less then two weeks after the signing of the Russian-Armenian accord. Vashadze's press office said they spoke about the "the need to further strengthen ties traditionally existing between the two countries and the importance of carrying out bilateral visits."