Armenia-US joint military exercise kicks off near Yerevan

Armenia-US joint military exercise kicks off near Yerevan
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The military drills take place amid reactions from Moscow who recently summoned Armenia's ambassador to complain about "unfriendly steps" Yerevan was taking.

Joint military drills between Armenian and US forces kicked off Monday in Armenia, amid reactions from Russian officials who expressed "regret" over the the drills.

"Exercise Eagle Partner's opening ceremony has kicked off," US Army Europe and Africa spokesperson told AFP.

Armenia's defense ministry said the exercises aim to "increase the level of interoperability" with US forces in international peacekeeping missions.

The US Army Europe and Africa Command said around 85 soldiers will train with 175 Armenian troops between September 11 and 20 in the Zar and Armavir grounds.

It said the drills would help prepare Armenia's 12th Peacekeeping Brigade to meet NATO standards for an evaluation later this year.

The exercises come with frustration growing in Armenia that Russia has failed to act as a security guarantor as tensions build with Azerbaijan backed by Turkey. The unstable situation in the region has been further exacerbated by a nine month long Azerbaijani blockade in Armenian-populated Nagorno-Kartabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier said the military exercises by Armenia and the US do not help with the stabilization of the situation in the region. He said Russia continues to fulfill its functions as a security guarantor, and Moscow also continues consistent and constructive work with both Yerevan and Baku.

More recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a news conference following the G20 summit in New Delhi that Russia regretted Armenia's plans to hold military exercises with the US.

Moscow, which leads a military alliance that includes Armenia, summoned Armenia's ambassador this week to complain about "unfriendly steps" the country was taking.