U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Kristina Kvien (R) gives an interview to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, April 10, 2024.

US, Armenia Have ‘Very Active’ Discussions On Security, Defense

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By Heghine Buniatian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — The United States and Armenia have “very active and robust” discussions about security and defense, US Ambassador to Armenia Kristina Kvien said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on April 11.

“That is also an ongoing topic, and I think that we’ve made significant expansion in that topic in the past year,” she said.

Kvien cited several examples of defense cooperation between the United States and Armenia, including their first joint military exercise since 2008 that took place last year.

“I think that’s a very important signal that the US and Armenia can work together in the defense field. And we’re looking for further ways that we can continue that work together. We’re also going to have an advisor who can come and sit with Armenia’s Ministry of Defense to help build capacity, particularly because Armenia is interested in expanding its participation in things like peacekeeping and other peaceful endeavors. And we want to be helpful to do that. So we’re going to work with them on both reforming internally, how to get your Ministry of Defense up to modern standards, and then also how to do more in the peacekeeping area,” she said.

Kvien also said that Washington and Yerevan have an “ongoing discussion about what Armenia might need in the military sector.”

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“We have already agreed on a couple of things, but we are continuing to have that discussion. One thing I can highlight in terms of what we’ve agreed to is that Armenia had asked for ambulances that are armored. And that way they can go into any potential conflict area and people will be protected. So that’s something that we’ve already agreed to go forward with. We are working on the modalities now so we can deliver that assistance. And, as I said, we’re talking about all sorts of different things, and we’re trying to see where we can be helpful to Armenia in terms of its defense,” Kvien added.

Commenting on the April 5 meeting in Brussels between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan that the parties said was focused on increasing Armenia’s resilience and diversifying its economy that remains heavily dependent on Russia, Kvien said that what was highlighted during that high-level meeting showed the progress the parties have made in their relations in the last few years.

“I’ll speak to the United States more than the EU, obviously, because that’s what I cover. But I can say that since I arrived about a year ago, all of our relations with Armenia in just about every sector have expanded and deepened. I’m proud that we’ve made that much progress, and I think we’ll continue to do that,” she said.

At the meeting in Brussels, the European Union and the United States promised 270 million euros (about $290 million) and $65 million, respectively, in fresh assistance to Armenia.

The high-level meeting between the West and Armenia was watched anxiously from Moscow that has accused Western powers of seeking to east Russia from the South Caucasus region.

Outlining ways in which the United States is trying to help Armenia get stronger and more independent in terms of its economy, Kvien said that cutting off all relations with any country was not what the United States was advising Armenia.

“Our view is… that the more friends, partners, allies you have, the more trade partners you have, the more export markets you have, the stronger you are, because that means no single country can hold you hostage to those relationships. So what we’re trying to do is work with Armenia in areas that Armenia has identified to help it diversify its contacts, not cut off one or the other, but diversify,” she said.

Speaking about the current tensions along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, Kvien stressed that Washington has made it very clear that “there can be no military solution to any current disagreements between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”

“We consider whether it is ceasefire violations, very aggressive rhetoric, or whether it is disinformation that is put out into the information sphere, all of those things are unhelpful to the peace process. Our focus right now is trying to advance the peace process,” Kvien said.

The diplomat reminded that the United States had facilitated a number of meetings between Armenian and Azerbaijani representatives last year and said Washington remained open to further facilitation.

“Lately the progress [in Armenia-Azerbaijan peace talks] has been slower, and we’re hoping that it can get back on track to move more quickly ahead. It can be either under U.S. facilitation, we’re very happy to do that. But if both parties are comfortable with other facilitators, we’re also happy to support that. What we really want to see is the agreement on all of the various details of a peace process moving forward, and we’re willing to support it in any way that the two parties feel is okay to go forward in,” the ambassador said.

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