YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian has praised Nikolay Bordyuzha, the secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) until last week, for condemning an armed Azerbaijani incursion into Armenia.
The December 29 incident left three Armenian and at least one Azerbaijani soldier dead at an Armenian army post in the northern Tavush province bordering western Azerbaijan. Officials in Yerevan say the fact that the Azerbaijani serviceman’s body was left lying in Armenian territory proves that the post was attacked by Azerbaijani troops.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry denied launching an incursion in the mountainous area, however. It claimed that an Armenian “reconnaissance squad” was ambushed by its forces while trying to cross into Azerbaijan.
Bordyuzha implicitly blamed Baku for the “provocative” incident “in the territory of a CSTO member state.” In a December 29 statement, he also referred to Nagorno-Karabakh as a republic.
“I think that the statement by the CSTO secretary general was very clear,” Sargsian told reporters on Sunday. “The secretary general is one of the most important CSTO institutions who expresses the organization’s views during the period of time between [CSTO] sessions.”
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry was quick to criticize Bordyuzha’s reaction, calling it “subjective.” It also rejected as “unacceptable” his reference to “the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”
Bordyuzha’s statement came just four days before his resignation. His deputy, Valery Semerikov, took over as acting secretary general of the Russian-led military alliance on January 2.
In accordance with the CSTO’s statutes, an Armenian official was supposed to replace Bordyuzha as secretary general in late 2015. However, the presidents of the bloc’s six member states — Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan — decided to extend Bordyuzha’s tenure by one year. They again failed to agree on his permanent replacement at a summit held in Saint Petersburg late last month.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is thought to be the main reason for the delay, with some CSTO member states, notably Kazakhstan, reportedly blocking Armenian’s appointment in a show of support for Azerbaijan. Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states have repeatedly signed pro-Azerbaijani declarations on Karabakh in the past, prompting criticism from Armenia.
Sargsian suggested that the CSTO leaders will reach a consensus on the issue at their next summit. “I am confident that everything will be alright,” he said without elaborating.