YEREVAN — Armenia does not need military intervention by Russia and other ex-Soviet allies to deal with increased ceasefire violations in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said on Tuesday.
“I don’t think that the situation now is such that we should appeal to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO),” Ohanian said, referring to the Russian-led defense pact of which Armenia is a member.
“If the Armenian army cannot respond to such small-arms violations, then why is it needed in the first place? The Armenian army is getting stronger by the day and it is able to meet such challenges on its own,” he told reporters during an international security conference in Yerevan.
Ohanian commented on complaints by Armenian pundits about the CSTO’s failure to react to deadly truce violations on “the line of contact” around Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, which they believe are instigated by Azerbaijan. The number of such shooting incidents appears to have increased in June, resulting in the deaths of four Armenian soldiers.
Also, several border villages in Armenia’s northeastern Tavush province reportedly came under unusually heavy fire from Azerbaijani army positions last week. Baku has blamed Yerevan for the increased tensions, saying that the Armenians themselves opened fire on Azerbaijani villages across the border.
Ohanian downplayed those incidents, saying that the Armenian military has been strong enough to deter Azerbaijan from restarting a full-scale war for Karabakh.
The minister, who played a major role in the 1991-1994 Armenian-Azerbaijani war, similarly stated last year that Turkey, rather than Azerbaijan, is the reason why Armenia hosts a Russian military base. He said the Russian troop presence keeps the Turkish military from directly intervening in the Karabakh dispute.
Ohanian noted at the same time on Tuesday that while Yerevan does not seek direct assistance from the CSTO it expects the Russian-led military alliance to publicly denounce Azerbaijani truce violations. He said he made this clear to Nikolay Bordyuzha, the CSTO secretary general, when they met in Yerevan last week.
Bordyuzha’s deputy Valery Semerikov, who also took part in the Yerevan conference, insisted that the CSTO’s Moscow-based executive body is not ignoring the Karabakh conflict. “Nagorno-Karabakh is located in the CSTO’s area of interest,” he said.
Asked what the organization will do in case of a renewed Armenian-Azerbaijani war, Semerikov said, “A threat to one CSTO member state is a threat to the entire organization.” But he added that the final decision would have to be made by the CSTO’s six member states.
Two of them, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, have repeatedly backed pro-Azerbaijani resolutions on Karabakh adopted by Islamic and Turkic states.