YEREVAN — France will provide more weapons and other military assistance to Armenia to help the country defend its territory, French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu said during a first-ever visit to Yerevan on Friday.

“Threats hanging over Armenia force us to move forward faster,” he told Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. “It is very important for us to react and take necessary steps quickly.”

Speaking after talks with his Armenian counterpart Suren Papikyan held earlier in the day, Lecornu confirmed that Armenia took delivery the previous night of the first batch of French night-vision devices commissioned by it last year. The Armenian military will also receive soon air-defense radar systems and more armored personnel carriers from French manufacturers, he said.

The French defense group Thales signed with the Armenian Defense Ministry a contract for the supply of three GM200 radars during Papikyan’s visit to Paris last October. Papikyan and Lecornu signed at the time a “letter of intent” on Armenia’s future acquisition of short-range surface-to-air missiles manufactured by another French company.

Lecornu indicated that the supply of the Mistral air-defense systems is a matter of time. What is more, he expressed France’s readiness to also sell more long-range systems to Armenia. He further announced that a French military adviser specializing in air defense will be deployed in Armenia to help it neutralize “possible strikes by potential aggressors.”

“Nobody can reproach the Armenian army for boosting its defense capacity,” Lecornu told a joint news conference with Papikyan, clearly alluding to Azerbaijan’s strong criticism of French-Armenian military cooperation.

The Armenian minister emphasized, for his part, that Yerevan is acquiring these and other weapons for solely defensive purposes. In an apparent reference to Azerbaijan, he spoke of a “visible threat” to Armenia’s territorial integrity.

Neither minister shed light on a number of documents that were signed by them after their talks. The AFP news agency reported that the Armenian side also signed on Friday a supply contract with the French company PGM manufacturing sniper rifles. It said no details of the deal were made public.

The defense cooperation is part of a broader deepening of French-Armenian relations cemented by the existence of an influential Armenian community in France. It comes amid Armenia’s mounting tensions with Russia, its longtime ally. Neighboring Iran has also signaled unease over the pro-Western tilt in Armenian foreign policy.

“Our Iranian partners respect our cooperation with other partners, and I think our Russian and other partners should do the same because Armenia has no taboos when it comes to cooperation to the benefit of Armenia,” Papikian said in this regard.

Armenia is “turning to partners that are truly providers of security,” Lecornu said when asked to comment on the tensions between Yerevan and Moscow.

French Defense Minister visits Armenian Genocide Memorial


On February 23, the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Armenia Suren Papikyan, and the Minister for the Armed Forces of the French Republic, Sébastien Lecornu visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial and paid tribute to the memory of the victims.

The Ministers laid a wreath at the memorial and flowers at the Eternal Flame in memory of the innocent martyrs of the Armenian Genocide.

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