RFE/RL Armenian Service – 10/24/2023


France Touts Military Support For Armenia

        • Artak Khulian

France - French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu (left) greets his Armenian 
counterpart Suren Papikian in Paris, October 23, 2023.

Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu underlined France’s commitment to helping 
Armenia “defend itself” on Tuesday one day after holding talks with his visiting 
Armenian counterpart Suren Papikian followed by the signing of first-ever arms 
deals between the two countries.

One of them calls for the South Caucasus nation’s purchase of three 
sophisticated radar systems from the French defense group Thales. Lecornu and 
his Armenian counterpart Suren Papikian also signed a “letter of intent” on the 
future delivery of French-manufactured surface-to-air missiles. No financial 
details of these agreements or delivery dates were made public.

“Armenia must be able to defend itself and protect its population,” Lecornu said 
in a series of tweets posted on the X social media platform in French and 

“Happy to progress, with you dear Suren, on the three pillars of our defense 
relationship,” he wrote, listing the planned arms supplies, training of Armenian 
military personnel and technical assistance to the ongoing “transformation” of 
Armenia’s armed forces.

Lecornu reaffirmed that a senior French officer will be sent to Armenia to 
advise its military on those reforms and that teams of French instructors will 
teach Armenian troops new combat techniques. The training courses will focus on 
“mountain combat and precision shooting,” he said.

France - Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov attends a news conference 
during a contract signing event for GM200, a medium-range radar produced for air 
defense, as part of a visit at the Thales radar factory in Limours, February 1, 

The French minister also pointed to the “upcoming audit” and “reinforcement” of 
Armenia’s air defenses that suffered serious losses during the 2020 war in 
Nagorno-Karabakh and last year’s border clashes with Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani 
army’s heavy use of Turkish and Israeli-made combat drones and the Armenian 
side’s failure to neutralize them determined, in large measure, the outcome of 
the six-week war.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Papikian on Monday, Lecornu said 
Armenian officers will be trained to operate the GM200 radars and short-range 
Mistral missiles that are also due to be sold to Yerevan.

GM200 can simultaneously detect and track multiple warplanes, drones and even 
rockets within a 250-kilometer radius, allowing air-defense units to hit such 
targets. France supplied two such systems to Ukraine earlier this year.

France, which is home to an influential Armenian community, is the first Western 
country to have pledged to provide major weaponry to Armenia. Papikian again 
thanked Paris for its military support when he met with senior French lawmakers 
on Tuesday.

Still No Date Set For Aliyev-Pashinian Talks In Brussels

        • Astghik Bedevian
        • Tatevik Lazarian

Belgium - EU Council President Charles Michel meets the leaders of Armenia and 
Azerbaijan in Brussels, July 15, 2023.

It remained unclear on Tuesday whether the European Union’s top official, 
Charles Michel, will manage to host fresh talks between Armenian Prime Minister 
Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev before the end of this 

Pashinian and Aliyev were scheduled to meet, together with Michel and the 
leaders of Germany and France, on the fringes of the EU’s October 5 summit in 
Granada, Spain. Armenian officials expected them to sign a framework peace deal 
there. However, Aliyev withdrew from the talks at the last minute, citing 
pro-Armenian statements made by French officials. Michel said afterwards that 
the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders will likely hold a trilateral meeting with 
him in Brussels later in October.

Pashinian’s office refused to clarify on Tuesday whether the meeting will take 
place and, if so, when. An Armenian pro-government lawmaker, Gurgen Arsenian, 
said in this regard that Yerevan “hasn’t cancelled the meeting.”

“I still assume that the meeting will take place and be productive,” Arsenian 
said without giving any possible dates.

Addressing the European Parliament last week, Pashinian said he hopes to meet 
Aliyev and sign an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty “by the end of the year.” 
He said the deal is hampered by Baku’s reluctance to recognize Armenia’s borders 
and its demands for a special corridor to Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave 
passing through Armenian territory.

Azerbaijan’s recent takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh raised more fears in Yerevan 
that Baku will also attack Armenia to open the corridor. Pashinian echoed them 
in his speech at the EU legislature.

Azerbaijan - Azeri and Turkish troops start "Mustafa Kemal Ataturk-2023" joint 
exercises, October 23, 2023.

The Azerbaijani and Turkish militaries began on Monday a joint military exercise 
near Armenia’s Syunik province sandwiched between Nakhichevan and mainland 
Azerbaijan. It reportedly involves 3,000 soldiers, over a hundred artillery 
systems and several Turkish F-16 warplanes.

The drills coincided with a meeting in Tehran of the foreign ministers of 
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Turkey. In a joint statement issued after 
the meeting, they called for regional peace based on the “inviolability of 
internationally recognized borders” and spoke out against “use of force” or 
threats of it.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Tuesday that Foreign Minister Ararat 
Mirzoyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov spoke separately during 
the Tehran gathering. A ministry spokeswoman appeared to downplay their 
“informal” conversation, saying that this kind of contacts is “customary for 
such platforms.”

Armenia, Iran To Scrap Truck Tolls In Mutual Trade

        • Robert Zargarian

Armenia - Iranian trucks are parked on a roadside in Syunik, October 7, 2021.

In an effort to boost bilateral trade, Armenia and Iran have agreed to stop 
levying road taxes from commercial trucks entering each other’s territory.

Armenian Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures Gnel 
Sanosian and Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mehrzad Bazrpash 
announced the agreement after talks held in Yerevan on Monday.

“The idea is to nullify all payments [for road use] for both Iranian trucks 
travelling to Armenia or using Armenia as a transit route and Armenian trucks 
entering Iran … and to help that business develop more successfully,” Sanosian 
told reporters.

“When we abolish the road tolls, goods will reach consumers at a lower cost,” 
Bazrpash said, for his part.

Armenia currently charges Iranians truck using its highways roughly $250 for 
every journey to or through the South Caucasus country. Armenian hauliers pay a 
similar sum in Iran.

The governments of the two neighboring states have for years discussed the 
possibility of mutual abolition of the truck tolls. The two ministers did not 
say when the agreement to that effect reached by them will be put into practice. 
It requires amendments to their tax legislations.

According to Armenian government data, Armenia’s trade with Iran rose by 6 
percent year on year to almost $454 million in the first eight months of this 
year. Iranian exports to Armenia accounted for as much as 85 percent of that 
figure, suggesting that the scrapping of the tax will primarily benefit Iranian 

Cargo traffic between the two states is carried out through Syunik, the sole 
Armenian region bordering the Islamic Republic. Two Iranian companies were 
formally contracted by the Armenian government on Monday to rebuild a 
32-kilometer section of the region’s main highway leading to the Iranian border. 
Sanosian and Bazrpash attended the signing of the contract worth $215 million.

Armenia Protests To Russia Over Anti-Pashinian TV Show

        • Aza Babayan

RUSSIA -- The flag of Channel One at the Ostankino TV Center in Moscow, October 
28, 2019

The Armenian Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador in Yerevan on 
Tuesday to condemn Russia’s leading state-run broadcaster for disparaging Prime 
Minister Nikol Pashinian during an hour-long program aired on Monday.

The ministry said Ambassador Sergei Kopyrkin was handed a note of protest in 
connection with “offensive and absolutely unacceptable statements” made during 
the program.

The Russian Channel One’s talk show featured videos scrutinizing Pashinian’s 
background and casting him in a bad light as well as pro-Kremlin panelists who 
denounced his track record and portrayed him as a Western puppet tasked with 
ending Armenia’s close relationship with Russia. The show host, who added her 
voice to their derogatory comments, also interviewed an Armenian opposition 
politician, Andranik Tevanian, in the studio.

The unprecedented program highlighted a deepening rift between Moscow and 
Yerevan which accelerated after last month’s Azerbaijani military offensive in 
Nagorno-Karabakh and Russia’s failure to prevent or stop it.

Addressing the European Parliament last week, Pashinian accused Moscow of using 
the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict to try to topple him. A Russian government 
source responded by comparing the Armenian leader to President Volodymyr 
Zelenskiy of Ukraine which was invaded by Russia last year.

Russia - Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin chairs a session of the Russian State Duma, 
October 27, 2022.

In what appeared to be a related development, the speaker of the Russian lower 
house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, announced on Tuesday that the State 
Duma has indefinitely delayed the passage of legislation allowing holders of 
Armenian driving licenses to work as drivers in Russia. Volodin attributed the 
move to Yerevan’s failure to give the Russian language an official status.

The Armenian government signaled its unhappiness with state-controlled Russian 
broadcasters’ coverage of Armenia even before the scandalous show aired by 
Channel One. A parliament deputy representing Pashinian’s Civil Contract party 
said last month that the government should ban the retransmission of this and 
two other Russian TV channels in the country.

But another pro-government lawmaker, Gurgen Arsenian, spoke out against such a 
ban. Arsenian, who is also Armenia’s ambassador-designate to Russia, downplayed 
the Channel One program, claiming that it actually boosted Pashinian’s approval 
ratings at home.

Reposted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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