Armenian servicemen sent to Iraq

Agency WPS
DEFENSE and SECURITY (Russia)
January 21, 2005, Friday

ARMENIAN SERVICEMEN SENT TO IRAQ

SOURCE: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 19, 2005, p. 5

by: Viktoria Panfilova

THE DECISION TO SEND A MILITARY CONTINGENT TO IRAQ IS AN ATTEMPT ON
OFFICIAL YEREVAN TO INDICATE THE INTENTION TO INTRODUCE SERIOUS
CHANGES IN ITS FOREIGN POLICY

Armenian servicemen were seen off to Iraq, yesterday. The ceremony
took place in Evartnots airport, Yerevan. Forty-six servicemen will
become a part of the Polish contingent. The parliament of Armenia
ratified the Memorandum on Understanding concerning participation in
Iraq, the other day. The decision to send Armenian servicemen to Iraq
was made during President Robert Kocharjan’s visit to Poland. It was
agreed as well that a limited Armenian contingent (up to 50
servicemen) would serve in Iraq under the Polish flag.

To quote Aram Sarkisjan, leader of the oppositionist Democratic Party
that is an element of Justice coalition, “A great deal of Armenians
have lived in the Middle East for the last 100 years. Because of the
genocide, you know. The authorities of Arab countries accepted them
and permitted them to develop their originality. That is why we think
it wrong to meddle in the affairs of Arab countries. What information
we possess at this point indicates anti-Armenian moods in Arab
countries, particularly in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and the United Arab
Emirates. Worse than that, we do not rule out the possibility of
dramatic consequences of this decision for our country.”

Debates in Armenia over involvement in Iraq lasted over two months.
They were fierce both in society and in the parliament. The National
Assembly ratified the accord after an eight-hour meeting last Monday
but never reached a consensus on the matter.

Lawmakers who voted “nay” claim that the presence of a contingent in
Iraq will collide with national interests of the country, interests
of state security. Moreover, it will generate a threat to the
existence itself of the Armenian community in Iraq numbering 25,000
people and Armenian communities in Moslem countries.

Sarkisjan told this correspondent that the decision to send
servicemen to Iraq is an attempt on the part of official Yerevan to
indicate the intention to introduce serious changes in its foreign
policy.

It should be taken into account meanwhile that Russia is Armenia’s
geo strategic ally and that this fact cannot help having an effect on
the bilateral relations between Moscow and Yerevan. In fact, Moscow
already used its influence with Armenia more than once to prevent its
strategic ally in the Caucasus from becoming too independent. Neither
did Armenian leaders consult with countries of the Organization of
the CIS Collective Security Treaty. “Hence the criticism of the
authorities’ stand on the matter,” Sarkisjan said.

Translated by A. Ignatkin

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