YEREVAN — Senior Armenian officials have criticized the secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for saying that the Russian-led defense alliance must not intervene in a continuing military standoff on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan.
Armenia appealed to the CSTO for help after Azerbaijani troops crossed several sections of the border and advanced a few kilometers into Armenian territory on May 12-14. It asked the alliance of six ex-Soviet states to invoke Article 2 of its founding treaty which requires the CSTO to discuss a collective response to grave security threats facing its member states.
The foreign ministers of Armenia, Russia, and four other CSTO member states discussed the border dispute when they met in Tajikistan later in May. They expressed concern over the tensions but did not issue joint statements in support of Armenia.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan chided the bloc afterwards for not publicly siding with his country. He warned that the Armenian government could turn to the UN Security Council “if it turns out that the instruments of the CSTO or the treaty on the joint Russian-Armenian military contingent are not enough to resolve this problem.”
Yerevan has not taken such action despite Baku’s continuing refusal to withdraw Azerbaijani troops from the contested border sections.
CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas said on Saturday that the border standoff is not serious enough to require the CSTO’s military intervention.
“One has to understand that the CSTO’s potential is used only in the event of foreign aggression [against member states,]” Zas told journalists. “In this case we are dealing with a border incident. Thank God, there are no casualties, no gunshots. This is a border incident … and we are in favor of resolving it peacefully.”
Ruben Rubinyan, the chairman of the outgoing Armenian parliament’s committee on foreign relations, described Zas’s remarks as “weird.”
Rubinyan insisted that the Azerbaijani troop movements violated Armenia’s territorial integrity. He also argued that one Armenian soldier was killed and six others captured by Azerbaijani troops in late May.
“The CSTO is obliged to react to not only a direct aggression or hostilities but also to threats to a CSTO member state’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and security,” Rubinyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Sunday. “I believe nobody can dispute the fact that the existing situation on our borders fully corresponds to Article 2.”
“We will continue to work with our CSTO partners in this direction and I think that representatives of our relevant agency will be in touch with our partners in the coming days,” he said.
Armen Grigoryan, the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, spoke with Zas by phone on Monday. Grigoryan was cited by his office as expressing concern over the Belarusian official’s comments and saying that the border standoff is not a mere “incident” because Azerbaijan is occupying Armenian territory in an attempt to annex it.
Taking into account that the actions of the Azerbaijani side are an obvious attempt to occupy a part of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, Armen Grigoryan once again stressed that it is necessary to show restraint in the negotiations at the level of the CSTO Secretariat in order not to jeopardize constructive efforts to resolve the situation.
Grigoryan also told Zas that the CSTO Secretariat in Moscow should send a fact-finding mission to Armenia that would look into the situation on the ground.