WASHINGTON, DC (RFE/RL) — U.S. President Donald Trump praised Armenia for participating in NATO-led peacekeeping operations and military exercises on Thursday when he congratulated the country on the 26th anniversary of its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.
In a congratulatory letter to President Serzh Sarkisian, Trump also expressed readiness to “continue our assistance” to Armenia’s ongoing transition to a parliamentary system of government. He said his administration is also seeking to expand U.S.-Armenian economic ties.
“We also greatly appreciate Armenia’s participation in international peacekeeping operations and NATO-led and other multinational exercises,” read the letter publicized by Sarkisian’s press office.
Trump singled out Armenian participation in U.S.-led drills held in neighboring Georgia in August. They involved about 2,800 troops from the United States, Georgia and six other nations. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited and addressed them during an official trip to Georgia.
“We thank you for your dedication to regional stability and international peacekeeping operations,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement on Armenia’s independence holiday.“We greatly appreciate these endeavors toward building a more peaceful world.”
Despite its military alliance with Russia, Armenia has deepened defense cooperation with the U.S. and other NATO member states since the early 2000s. It currently contributes more than 100 troops to NATO-led missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
“Armenia does a good job of balancing its relationships with all its neighbors,” the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, Richard Mills, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) late last month.
Trump sent his congratulatory message two days after greeting Sarkisian at a reception which he hosted in New York for world leaders that attended the latest session of the UN General Assembly. It was the first face-to-face contact between the two men.
Sarkisian praised Armenia’s “strong partnership” with the U.S. when he congratulated Trump on America’s Independence Day in July. He expressed hope that the two countries will “enrich the agenda of Armenian-American relations with new mutually beneficial initiatives and projects.”
Meeting with a group of visiting U.S. lawmakers in Yerevan on Thursday, the Armenian leader again thanked the U.S. for its economic assistance provided to his country since the early 1990s and praised Washington’s role in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.