YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia is ready to increase the number of its soldiers serving in a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon led by the Italian military, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said on Wednesday.
According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, Ohanian offered the additional troop deployment at a meeting with Italy’s ambassador to Armenia, Giovanni Ricciulli, and Moscow-based military attache, Brigadier-General Massimo Fogari. A ministry statement said he cited “the already positive experience of joint service by Armenian and Italian peacekeepers.”
The statement did not clarify how many additional troops Yerevan is ready to dispatch to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFL) deployed near the country’s borders with Syria and Israel. The Armenian military joined the UNIFL with 32 soldiers in November.
Ohanian personally inspected the Armenian contingent in April. He flew to Lebanon from Rome, where he held talks with Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti and top executives of several Italian defense companies. Ohanian’s press office reported afterwards tentative Armenian-Italian agreements on joint manufacturing of military equipment. But it gave no details.
Ambassador Ricciulli was reported on Wednesday to praise Italian-Armenian military cooperation and say that his government is ready to deepen it.
Ohanian’s first deputy, Davit Tonoyan, expressed Armenia’s readiness to step up its participation in UN peacekeeping missions around the world when he met with senior UN officials in New York late last month.
Some 120 Armenian soldiers currently serve in Afghanistan and 35 others in Kosovo as part of NATO-led multinational missions.