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Armenia’s nuclear threat: how real the danger is

10 May 2016 17:26 (UTC+04:00)
Armenia’s nuclear threat: how real the danger is

By Gulgiz Dadashova

Just a month ago world leaders has gathered in Washington to mull nonproliferation and ways to keep nuclear materials from terrorists. At a time when the U.S. reiterates its strong commitment to keep the topic of nuclear disarmament in the geopolitical agenda, the smallest nation in the South Caucasus -- Armenia -- has announced its nuclear ambitions, in fact skipping the due attention of Washington.

Armenia can be the “second North Korea”, as its authorities had already declared the country to be “an owner of a nuclear weapon” and vowed the use of nuclear weapons against its neighbor country Azerbaijan, against which it has illegal territorial claims.

The two South Caucasus countries -- Azerbaijan and Armenia remain in a state of war since early 1990s when the latter staged a war against its neighbor and occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized lands, turning over 1 million people into refugees and IDPs.

Long-simmering tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan flared again on April 2 when the Armenian side began to shell the Azerbaijani positions and settlements along the frontline. Despite the Russia-brokered agreement achieved on April 5, Armenia continues to violate ceasefire with Azerbaijan by shelling its positions and civilians using prohibited weapons.

Following the recent clashes on frontline, Armenia’s ex-PM, member of the country's Parliament Hrant Bagratyan, as well as Major-General Arkadi Ter-Tadevosyan have claimed that Armenia possesses nuclear weapon hinting at its possible use against Azerbaijan.

The claims follow the facts of nuclear smuggling from Armenia, which were mentioned in annual statistical reports of the IAEA Incident and Trafficking Database (IDTB), Database on Nuclear Smuggling, Theft, and Orphan Radiation Sources (DSTO), reports by NTI, SIPRI, and other open media source.

Expert Elkhan Alasgarov believes the U.S. may impose sanctions against Armenia given its nuclear ambitions,which is a serious threat not only to Azerbaijan, but also the globe.

Alasgarov reminded that even back in 2011 Georgian law enforcement agencies arrested Armenian citizens, who were trying to sell radioactive materials and looking for buyers in this country. And recently the number of such smugglers has increased.

"All these give reason to believe that the nuclear ambitions of the current leadership of Armenia have reached a serious point, and these actions require an immediate reaction of the international community,” the expert said pointing at the case of Iran, against which the world powers imposed sanctions due to its nuclear studies.

The constant incidents on the Armenia-Georgia border and rising number of Armenian citizens involved in cases of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials, is sufficient proof of the existence of the Armenian route for smuggling of weapons-usable nuclear material, experts say.

Uncontrolled radioactive sources or “dirty bombs” can cause harm to human health or the environment, while in the hands of terrorists these sources can turn into a real threat against the whole world. Actually, the scope of the threat is daunting.

It doesn’t take much to unleash a catastrophe: Uranium -238, Cesium-137 or Plutonium, that Armenian citizens were trying to smuggle through Georgia to Middle East,is enough to build a nuclear bomb.

This is also the time when the world fights against terrorists from ISIS, PKK and Al-Gaida and others.

Experts claim that the presence of the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant enables the Armenian leadership to buy radioactive material abroad, which then are sold further. The Armenian-Turkish border is closed, while Russian border guards stand on the border between Iran and Armenia. That is why Armenian smugglers try to use the territory of Georgia and its access to sea, which allows seeking buyers from larger region.

Alasgarov believes that the cases of smuggling of nuclear materials through Georgia should be thoroughly investigated by the International Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and urgent measures should be taken.

Asked about whether such a sale of radioactive material without the consent of the Armenian authorities is possible, the expert ruled out this possibility.

The political scientist also spoke about the equally important question of whether such a possible sale of radioactive material without the consent of the Armenian authorities?

"This is impossible, since the last four detained Armenian smugglers, about which media reported, have safely transported radioactive materials through Armenia’s territory and to the border. Some argue that the Armenian authorities sell them [radioactive material] to respective customers to get profits,” Alasgarov said.

The expert believes that uttering the presence of nuclear weapon by the Armenian official can also be regarded as the nuclear threats, which puts the country in a par with North Korea for the blackmail.

Azerbaijan has repeatedly warned that Armenia pollutes the transboundary rivers, mainly Araz River with the nuclear waste of the Metsamor NPP and other materials, he reminded.


Follow Gulgiz Dadashova on Twitter: @GulgizD

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