Armenia ratifies agreement on joint air-defense system with Russia

YEREVAN (Reuters) - Armenia’s parliament on Thursday voted to ratify an Armenian-Russian agreement to create a joint air-defense system which opponents fear gives too much control to Moscow.

Armenian officials say the new system will enable the inclusion of the Russian Air Force’s full range of capabilities, including multifunction fighter jets, into joint regional air defense.

“It will allow us to have serious reconnaissance data, which will be in the common informational field and will prevent all violations by adversaries,” Armenian Defence Minister Seyran Ohanyan said on Wednesday.

“In this matter, we do not see any reliable partner other than Russia.”

The Armenia-Russian air-defense agreement was signed by the two countries in December 2015. Russia and Armenia have been jointly protecting Armenia’s airspace since the mid-1990s. Russian troops and warplanes are stationed on the territory of Armenia, once part of the Soviet Union.

The air-defense agreement does not apply to Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia is embroiled in a long-standing conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan over the region.

A war between Azerbaijan and Armenian-backed separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh ended with a fragile truce in 1994, which for many years was marred by only sporadic violence. But the ceasefire was shattered in early April with the fiercest fighting in years, killing dozens of people on both sides.

Opposition MPs and other critics of the air-defense agreement say it undermines Armenian sovereignty - and point out that Russia sells arms to rival Azerbaijan as well as to Armenia.

Reporting by Hasmik Mkrtchyan; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Andrew Roche