YEREVAN—France’s government has initiated the dispatch of weapons to Armenia, setting in motion terms set forth in French-Armenian cooperation agreements inked last month.
Footage aired recently showcased the unloading of several French-manufactured Bastion versatile armored vehicles and parts of the ARQUUS’ brand, specifically designed for the Bastion, at Georgia’s Poti port along the Black Sea coast. The shipment reportedly included over 21 Bastion vehicles out of the 24 allocated by the French military. These vehicles and corresponding components are slated to journey from Poti to the Georgia-Armenia border for transfer to the Armenian side.
France had initially intended to supply the Bastion armored personnel carriers to Ukraine but was rejected by Kiev, as reported by Ouest France. The 12.5-ton vehicles were turned down by Ukrainian authorities, who determined that they would provide inadequate protection against artillery and anti-tank missiles. La Tribune had previously disclosed France’s plans to provide Kiev with 20 Bastion vehicles in October 2022.
When asked about the reports and images circulating on Telegram channels regarding France’s delivery of military equipment to Armenia, spokesperson of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) of Armenia Aram Torosyan refrained from providing further details beyond the official messages and statements on cooperation in the defense sector between Armenia and France stating, “We cannot disclose any additional information at this time.”
This move by the French military follows the signing of agreements aimed at “expanding bilateral cooperation” last month. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna had previously announced Paris’s commitment to forthcoming contracts for supplying military equipment to Yerevan. The contracts were formally signed on October 23 in Paris, where Armenia’s Defense Minister Suren Papikyan and his French counterpart Sébastien Lecornu were signatories.
Lecornu emphasized that along with the arms delivery, France would provide training for Armenian officers on operating the military equipment and support ongoing reforms within the Armenian armed forces. He underscored the defensive nature of the weaponry, stating it was intended to bolster Armenia’s self-defense capabilities and protect its population.
France also plans to sell Mistral short-range surface-to-air missiles and three radar systems to Armenia. Reports suggest that around 50 units of VAB MK3 medium-weight combat-proven armored vehicles might also be part of the current agreements.
Georgian authorities confirmed that France dispatched ACMAT Bastion armored personnel carriers to Armenia via the Port of Poti, which was also verified by APM Terminals Poti to RFE/RL’s Georgian service.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ayhan Hajizadeh strongly criticized France’s supply of armored vehicles to Armenia. He expressed concern that this equipment transfer would bolster Armenia’s military strength.
Hajizadeh rebuked France for undermining efforts toward regional normalization based on “mutual respect for sovereignty and borders,” stating that the weapons dispatch would exacerbate regional tensions. He urged both Armenia and France to halt regional militarization, advocating for peace and cooperation as the sole viable path forward. Furthermore, he called on the international community to refrain from arming Armenia, claiming such actions impede peace and prosperity in the region. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan continues to arm itself with Israeli weapons.
When asked about the transfer of French armored vehicles to Armenia through Georgia, Georgian Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili stated, “Every nation retains the right to maintain defense forces and acquire conventional weaponry allowed by international agreements.” Darchiashvili affirmed that both countries should equally access Georgia’s transit function, noting that baseless insinuations were unwarranted.
Furthermore, he reiterated Georgia’s stance on non-participation in the “3+3” negotiation format. Darchiashvili highlighted Georgia’s positive bilateral relationships and cooperative ties with neighboring countries Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, reinforcing Tbilisi’s commitment to maintaining amicable relations in such bilateral formats.
As the republic receives military equipment rejected by Ukraine from France, Armenia has also finalized an arms deal with India. Armenia reportedly plans to acquire anti-drone military equipment worth $41 million from India, specifically the Zen Anti-Drone System (ZADS), to bolster its air defense capabilities. Armenia has reportedly signed the contract involving supply, maintenance and training by Zen Technologies. This follows prior defense cooperation between India and Armenia following the 2020 Artsakh War, including arms deals totaling $400 million, which consist of Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers (MBRL), anti-tank missiles, rockets and ammunition.
The European Union has also discussed providing non-lethal military aid to Armenia. During its November 13 meeting, the EU Foreign Affairs Council deliberated enhancing the EU monitoring mission by sending more observers and patrols to the Armenian border. The Council emphasized vigilance against destabilization in Armenia and warned Azerbaijan against compromising its territorial integrity.
Armenia’s deepening relations with the West and India suggest a significant shift in regional geopolitics. These deals aim to diversify Armenia’s arms suppliers beyond its traditional reliance on Russia. There is speculation that Armenia could take further steps, such as withdrawing from Russian blocs like the CSTO and the EAEU. Russia, though equipped with economic leverage, has not taken action against Armenia’s pivot.
Armenian authorities have repeatedly declined to participate in CSTO meetings. Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan has informed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that he will not be present at the upcoming CSTO Summit in Moscow on November 23, citing scheduling constraints. The Armenian government, via its Telegram channel, conveyed Pashinyan’s decision, hoping for understanding from CSTO partners. This follows Pashinyan’s absence from the CIS Summit in Bishkek last month. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Pashinyan voiced discontent over the fulfillment of alliance obligations by the CSTO and Russia, stressing Armenia’s need to diversify its national security relations.
Armenia’s pivot away from Russia is taking place amid uncertainty over the status of enclaves in Armenia and the potential threat of Azerbaijani aggression aimed at controlling a corridor through the Syunik province.