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armenpress: ARMENIA WILL SEND MILITARY UNITS TO AZERBAIJAN FOR NATO EXERCISES IF INVITED

YEREVAN, JUNE 20, ARMENPRESS: Murad Isakhanian, an aid to deputy defense minister, said today that Armenia would send its military contingent to Azerbaijan for next year’s NATO-supported Best Cooperative Effort-2004 military exercises in the event of the official invitation on part of Azerbaijani officials.

Speaking to a news conference to provide new information about the pace of the first ever NATO-supported exercises in Armenia, Best Cooperative Efforts-2003, Isakhanian said Azerbaijan did not send its military unit to Armenia, though it participated in two planning conferences in Budapest and Vienna.

The NATO’s debut in Armenia is marked with participation of three soldiers from the Turkish military aside from Russian soldiers also taking part in them.

The 12-day exercises are being carried out under the aegis of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program of which Armenia is a member. The 400 soldiers, sent by 19 nations, are acting out a fictitious scenario in which they provide military support for an international peacekeeping operation.

Unlike its neighbors, Georgia and Azerbaijan, which have expressed their desire to become full NATO members, Armenian’s relations were somewhat cool with the Alliance, mainly because of its strong military ties with Russia, which has two army bases in Armenia as well as provides the bulk of its border guards, patrolling borders with Turkey and Iran.

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