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U.S., Armenian Defense Officials Map Out Closer Cooperation

Azerbaijani military vehicles take part in a parade held in Baku in June.
Azerbaijani military vehicles take part in a parade held in Baku in June.
YEREVAN -- Senior U.S. and Armenian military officials have opened two days of talks in Washington that highlight growing bilateral defense links, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Armenia's Defense Ministry said it was represented at the "bilateral defense consultations" by First Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan and other officials.

A short statement issued by the ministry before the meeting said the Armenian delegation was to discuss with senior Pentagon officials "issues relating to U.S.-Armenian defense cooperation." It did not elaborate on the agenda of the talks.

According to the statement, Tonoyan was to meet with U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, Assistant Defense Secretary Alexander Vershbow, and Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Celeste Wallander.

Wallander visited Yerevan and met with Armenia's top political and military leaders late last month. She commended them for sending Armenian troops to Afghanistan and Kosovo and broadening military ties with the United States.

"Very soon we will be having discussions in Washington on our plans for the next year, on how the United States can further support Armenia's strategic defense review, which the government recently finished," Wallander told RFE/RL recently.

The review is part of ongoing defense reforms envisaged by Armenia's Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) that was launched with NATO in 2005. The reforms are supposed to bring the Armenian military into greater conformity with U.S. and NATO standards.

Meeting with Wallander in late June, President Serzh Sarkisian praised the U.S. engagement with Armenia and the rest of the region and reaffirmed Yerevan's plans to step up cooperation with NATO.

Wallander insisted that a military alliance with Russia does not impede that cooperation.

"We don't see that as any kind of obstacle to working with us bilaterally or working within NATO," she told RFE/RL.

The talks in Washington will also touch upon U.S. military assistance to Armenia, which should total $12 million this year.

A large part of that aid has been channeled into an Armenian army brigade that provides troops for ongoing U.S.-led missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Armenia sent an additional 81 soldiers to Afghanistan less than a month ago, almost tripling its contribution to the NATO-led multinational force stationed there.

Another 80 Armenian troops are serving under NATO command in Kosovo.