China has just delivered eight Typhoon multiple-launcher tactical missile systems to Armenia–the first known Chinese-Armenian arms deal. The delivery was agreed upon during a joint visit of Russia’s and Armenia’s defense ministers, Igor Sergeev and Vazgen Sarkisian, to Beijing last year. Originally a predecessor of the Grad missile launcher, the Typhoon has recently been modernized and has had its range increased by the Chinese military. Chinese instructors are currently training the Armenian military in the use of the Typhoon systems, four of which have been placed in Karabakh. Substantial stretches of Azerbaijani territory come within the Typhoons’ range.
Azerbaijan’s senior presidential adviser for foreign policy, Vafa Guluzade, disclosed the information yesterday. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has officially protested to the Chinese side, demanding the immediate return of the missile systems to China. The Chinese embassy in Baku yesterday confirmed receipt of the protest note, but withheld comment. Guluzade regards China’s unprecedented step as calculated to increase the perceived risks to the security of westbound export pipelines and to discourage Western investment in transit projects in the South Caucasus. “Apparently,” Guluzade concluded, “China has decided to enter the geopolitical competition in the Caucasus on the side of Russia” (Turan, AFP, May 18).
ARMENIAN “CRIMINAL GANG” LINKED TO FORMER RULING PARTY GOES ON TRIAL.