During his visit to Yerevan, Minister Gašić also had meetings with Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandian and His Holiness Garegin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, as well as the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) of Armenia Hermine Naghdalyan. The NA deputy speaker emphasized the development of inter-parliamentary relations, noting a necessity for greater cooperation in this sphere. In particular, she has highlighted the active cooperation of the Friendship Groups in the parliaments of the two countries (Parliament.am, November 26). It will now be up to the mid-level bureaucrats in both governments to turn these pledges and high expectations into concrete policy actions.
By Erik Davtyan
On November 24, the Defense Minister of Serbia Bratislav Gašić arrived in Yerevan for a two-day official visit. Interestingly, as the minister himself mentioned, this was the first such trip to Armenia by a Serbian minister of defense. Minister Gašić met with Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan, who stressed that “recent years’ reciprocated official visits and meetings have gone a long way toward intensifying the political dialogue between the two countries, improving the legal framework and deepening the ongoing cooperation within international organizations.” As to possible areas of defense cooperation, both officials underlined the importance of sharing their experiences in the fields of military medicine, military education and interaction within the framework of international peacekeeping forces (Gov.am, November 24).
On November 25, Minister Gašić met with his Armenian counterpart, Seyran Ohanyan. After the two delegations discussed issues of bilateral, regional and international importance, the Serbian and Armenian defense ministers signed a declaration on cooperation in the field of defense (Mil.am, November 25). According to the declaration, the bilateral defense cooperation treaty, when ultimately signed, will cover areas like defense and security policy, military-economic cooperation, peacekeeping missions, military scientific/technical cooperation, military education and training, military medicine, and so on (Razm.info, November 25).
Though this was only the first step toward establishing Serbian-Armenian military ties, the signing of the declaration opens a new chapter in Armenia’s international military cooperation. First, the treaty will embrace a wide span of areas of defense cooperation, thus contributing to the more extensive development of bilateral relations with this key Balkan country. In a wider context, Armenia will be expanding the geographic scope of its global military partnerships. To date, Armenia has regularly cooperated with Russia, Greece, the United States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); moreover, it actively participates in a number of international peacekeeping missions.
Armenian-Serbian defense cooperation will be an impetus for further rapprochement between the two states. On November 25, the Serbian defense minister was also received by the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan. The Armenian head of state welcomed the bilateral initiatives in the military field and said that “the Armenian people attached great importance to the presence of Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić at the events dedicated to the centennial of the Armenian Genocide [on April 24, 2015],” describing Nikolić’s gesture as “a unique display of friendship and solidarity that the Armenian nation will always remember and appreciate” (President.am, November 25).