The latest WikiLeaks publication of a US embassy cable has revealed more details of Armenia’s role in transferring some 1000 RPG-22s and 260 PKM machine guns to Iran, a charge which Armenia had denied according to an earlier cable.
According to the document, U.S. Ambassador Donald A. Mahley, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Threat Reduction, Export Controls, and Negotiations, had two separate meetings on January 14 with Armenia’s National Security Service Chairman Gorik Hakobian and President Serzh Sargsian regarding the Iran export control issue.
The meetings are characterised as “both positive and constructive” in a classified cable sent out from Yerevan to the U.S. Secretary of State, National Security Council, the CIA and the U.S. Secretary of Defense. The list of addressees itself shows how much importance has been attached to this communication.
The comments section of the cable is probably the most interesting: “Sargsian acknowledged the weapons purchase from Bulgaria, and neither he nor the NSS Chairman challenged our information that these weapons were then transferred to Iran/Iraq. Both men indicated that there would be an investigation into how the weapons went from Armenia to Iran/Iraq. Hakobian seemed to indicate that the blame most probably lay with the Bulgarians and perhaps unauthorized Armenians acting on their own. Probably in an attempt to minimize U.S. demands, they also noted that there have been significant reforms and personnel changes since the incident. The President reiterated that cooperation with the U.S., including on security and export control, was an Armenian priority, and that the GOAM, with the NSS as the lead, would discuss the proposed Memorandum of Understanding with the expert team on January 15.”
The background section of the earlier cable had mentioned, that the U.S. Secretary of State had discussed with President Serzh Sargsian the U.S. concerns over Armenia’s role in transferring rockets and machine guns to Iran in 2003, but Armenia’s president denied any transfer occurred.
According to the new cable, “somewhat surprisingly” the President has reversed the mantra he has repeated for the last four months that the weapons transfer “did not happen and could not have happened” and admitted it this time, after seeing convincing evidence.
“Following Mahley’s abbreviated presentation, the President stated there was such a contract with the Bulgarians and that he had signed the end user certificate in his capacity as Minister of Defense. He listened intently as Ambassador Mahley passed the three documents (invoice, end user document, and financial transaction statement) and nodded as he reviewed the documents.”
According to the cable, President Sargsian has said, that the reason he denied weapons transfer earlier, was because he had understood from previous communications by U.S. officials, that the weapons in question were missiles or rockets — not RPGs.
“He stated that the information about the contract with Bulgaria is correct and the GOAM needs to explore further how the weapons got to Iran or Iraq. “We know that we got the weapons. We will figure out how they were transferred and we will let you know,” the President assured Mahley.
The President concluded that the GOAM did not have and had no interest in cooperating with Iran on weapons sales.
According to the cable, President Sargsian had also agreed to work on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) about export controls, which has led U.S. officials to an optimistic conclusion: “While there will no doubt be hard questions during the meeting on the MOU and actual implementation will pose even greater challenges, we are — unexpectedly — in the best place we could be going into discussions on the MOU.”