Sargis Khandanyan, chairman of Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations

YEREVAN — Sargis Khandanyan, the chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations hit back at a Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin who warned that Armenia will risk losing its independence if it keeps moving away from Russia and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

Over the past year Yerevan has boycotted high-level meetings, military exercises and other activities of the Russian-le alliance of six ex-Soviet states in response what it sees as a lack of CSTO support for Armenia in the conflict with Azerbaijan.

Galuzin criticized this stance in an interview with the Moscow daily Izvestia published on Thursday. Galuzin urged the Armenian government to resume its security cooperation with Russia and other CSTO allies, saying that there is no viable alternative to the country’s continued membership in the alliance.

“It is often claimed that in the current situation the CSTO and Russia can lose Armenia,” he said. “I think that we should talk not about the possible losses of Russia or the CSTO but about the fact that the fascination with Western factors on the one hand and the oscillations regarding whether to leave the CSTO or not on the other could lead to the loss of Armenia’s identity and independence.”

Khandanyan dismissed the warning, saying that it is the CSTO, not Armenia, that should make a “choice.”

“Armenia is trying to deepen its relations with its many partners,” Khandanyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “We are going down the path of diversifying both our security and economic relations … and it is this path that will help to ensure Armenia’s security, independence and sovereignty.”

Amid its growing estrangement from the CSTO and Russia in particular, Armenia is seeking closer security ties with the West. A senior NATO official praised this foreign policy “shift” last month.

He said Armenia and NATO are now working on a new “individually tailored partnership program” that will flesh out their closer partnership. The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by warning that closer ties with the U.S.-led alliance could only spell more trouble for the South Caucasus nation.

“Armenia makes decisions on its own,” said Khandanyan. “We welcome the involvement of all parties that are ready to help Armenia become more secure and support its independence. Armenia also expects that no country will force it to make any decision.”

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