YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia is ready, in principle, to send a demining team to Syria as part of a multinational “coalition” that could be formed by Russia, the Defense Ministry in Yerevan said on Monday.
A top Russian military official said late last month that Armenia and Serbia have expressed readiness to join such a coalition which Russia hopes would help its troops clear landmines in the war-torn country. Moscow formally proposed its creation at the United Nations in April.
The Armenian government did not immediately confirm the Russian official’s statement. A spokesman for President Serzh Sarkisian said only that official Yerevan will make a statement “when a decision is made and all issues are clarified.”
In a written statement to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), the Defense Ministry clarified that the Armenian and Russian militaries already held “preliminary working discussions” last year on the possibility of Armenia’s participation in “humanitarian demining efforts in Syria.”
“During the discussions, Armenia expressed readiness to consider possibilities of becoming involved with a humanitarian demining detachment — in case of the launch of such an initiative, the Syrian government’s consent, and observance of all international legal procedures — in those parts of Syria where there are no ongoing hostilities,” said the statement.
“At the moment, the Armenian Defense Ministry has no information regarding the course of the formation of the coalition, its composition and especially time frames for its deployment,” it stressed.
The issue was also on the agenda of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s April 2016 visit to Yerevan. Lavrov discussed possible Armenian involvement in demining operations in the historic Syrian city of Palmyra when he met with his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian. “I hope that our joint initiative can be implemented,” he said after the talks.
It is not clear whether Sarkisian and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about Syria when they met in the Russian city of Sochi on August 23. The Armenian presidential press service said they discussed “topical international and regional issues.”
Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance of six ex-Soviet states.