NEW YORK (RFE/RL) — President Serzh Sarkisian expressed readiness to expand Armenia’s participation in multinational peacekeeping operations around the world on Monday as he addressed a United Nations summit in New York chaired by U.S. President Barack Obama.
Sarkisian was among more than 50 world leaders who were invited to the UN headquarters to discuss ways of boosting the international community’s peacekeeping capacity. Obama announced at the end of the one-day summit that they have pledged some 40,000 troops for possible deployment on UN missions.
“I am pleased to state that despite lingering tensions on our border [with Azerbaijan] Armenia’s involvement in international peacekeeping is gradually expanding in terms of both geography and quantity and quality,” Sarkisian said in a speech at the gathering. “Armenia is already an active contributor to international peacekeeping and security, having accumulated considerable experience over the past decade.”
Sarkisian declared in that regard that the Armenian government has “undertaken new commitments” to the international community. He said it will commit specialized medical and demining units to ongoing or future peacekeeping missions.
Armenia’s First Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan clarified on Tuesday that the Armenian military will be ready to deploy in the coming years a mobile field hospital and sappers trained to detect and defuse improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by “terrorist groups.” He told Panorama.am that the medical unit will be set up “on the basis” of one such hospital which the United States donated to the Armenian army’s special peacekeeping brigade in 2007.
The U.S. military also trained over 40 Armenian medical personnel to operate the $1.2 million facility. It provided more equipment to the hospital in the following years.
In Tonoyan’s words, Armenian army medics and demining experts, who have until now dealt with only conventional landmines, will need to undergo additional training before their deployments abroad. The training process will likely take between two and three years, he said.
“The personnel training will be carried out with the help of our international partners,” Tonoyan told Panorama.am. Yerevan also expects them to provide the Armenian medical and demining units with new equipment, he added.
The Armenian peacekeeping brigade has already received large-scale assistance from the U.S., Germany, Greece and other NATO member states since it was set up over a decade ago. Sarkisian thanked the Western nations for that aid in his speech at the UN peacekeeping summit.
The brigade currently has about 200 rotating soldiers serving in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Lebanon. Earlier this month, NATO upgraded its evaluation of the brigade’s combat readiness and interoperability with NATO forces.