PARIS — France’s Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu flew to Yerevan on Thursday as Armenia reportedly received French military hardware acquired by it last October.

A deal signed by the Armenian Defense Ministry and the French defense group Thales at the time called for the sale of three sophisticated radar systems to the South Caucasus nation. Lecornu and his Armenian counterpart Suren Papikyan attended the signing ceremony in Paris.

The GM200 radars can simultaneously detect and track multiple warplanes, drones and even rockets within a 250-kilometer radius, allowing air-defense units to hit such targets. France supplied two such systems to Ukraine a year ago.

France’s Le Figaro daily and AFP news agency reported that the three radars as well as French night-vision equipment will be shipped to Armenia on Thursday. The Armenian Defense Ministry declined to comment on those reports.

Lecornu stressed on Wednesday the “purely defensive” character of these and other French arms supplies. Armenia is facing “major security challenges,” he told the French broadcaster RTL in a clear reference to the risk of an Azerbaijani attack on the country.

Lecornu headed to Armenia the day after French President Emmanuel Macron and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met in Paris ahead of an official ceremony to inter Missak Manouchian, an ethnic Armenian hero of the French Resistance to Nazi occupation, at the national Pantheon.

“We will continue our defense cooperation with Armenia,” Macron said at the start of the meeting. He urged Azerbaijan to explicitly recognize Armenia’s borders and enable Nagorno-Karabakh’s displaced population to return to its homeland “freely and rapidly.”

French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu (right) and his Armenian counterpart Suren Papikyan sign an agreement in Paris, October 23, 2023

Lecornu and Papikyan are scheduled to meet on Friday. Andranik Kocharyan, the chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on defense and security, did not rule out that more French-Armenian agreements could be signed as a result of their talks.

“Armenia seeks to acquire weapons of very high quality from multiple sources,” Kocharyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

The two ministers signed in October a “letter of intent” on the future delivery of French short-range surface-to-air missiles to Armenia. It emerged afterwards that France will also supply a total of 50 armored personnel carriers. The first batch of 24 Bastion vehicles apparently bound for Armenia was spotted in the Georgian port of Poti in December.

Kocharyan also stressed the importance of France’s pledge to train Armenian military personnel. According to Le Figaro and AFP, the French military will hold three “mountain combat training courses” for them this year.

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