NATO Secretary General visits Armenia to strengthen ties

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has visited Armenia in a move to strengthen ties with the former Soviet republic that is moving toward closer ties to the West.

Stoltenberg and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held a joint news conference in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Tuesday.

Pashinyan said his country is keen to develop the existing political dialogue and expand its partnership with NATO and its member states.

Stoltenberg said he welcomes Armenia's solidarity with Ukraine. He said he looks forward to continuing to strengthen the partnership between NATO and Armenia, and working together for peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

Armenia is a member of the Russian-led military alliance, CSTO, and has been strongly influenced by Russia in the fields of security and economy.

But in recent years, the country has been increasingly at odds with President Vladimir Putin's Russian government and is moving closer to the West.

In February, the country announced that it had frozen its participation in the CSTO. Pashinyan was dissatisfied with the lack of military support from Russia when ethnic Armenians were forced to surrender in Nagorno-Karabakh following a military offensive by Azerbaijan last year.

Armenia became a member of the International Criminal Court in February, which has issued an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin on suspicion of war crimes in Ukraine.

Russia is on the alert for Stoltenberg's visit to Armenia. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that NATO's attempt to increase its influence and presence in the region will not enhance stability.