Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev

Russian Senator Says Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict ‘Out Of CSTO’s Competence’

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By Astghik Bedevian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Sparking a further backlash in Armenia, a senior Russian lawmaker has claimed this week that the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan “does not fall within the competence of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).”

In a November 21 interview with the Moscow-based weekly newspaper Argumenty i Fakty published ahead of the CSTO summit in Yerevan, which is due on November 23, Konstantin Kosachev, Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Federation, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, said: “Each of the CSTO member countries determines its attitude towards this conflict independently.”

Senator Kosachev said that Russia was “most sincerely” involved in efforts to promote a settlement. “And our efforts are equally wanted by both sides. It can’t be otherwise. The situation can develop only in this way. To take the position of supporting only one side in this conflict would mean to aggravate it. It is necessary to take the position of a peaceful settlement and help ensure that the terms of this settlement are acceptable to all parties,” Kosachev said.

At the same time, the Russian politician argued that Turkey was making a mistake by supporting Baku in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

Leaders of the CSTO, a Russia-led defense alliance of six post-Soviet nations, including Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, are to meet in Yerevan for an annual summit to discuss current issues of the organization in which the rotating presidency is passing from Armenia on to Belarus.

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In the wake of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border clashes in mid-September, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan urged the CSTO to come up with a “roadmap for restoring Armenia’s territorial integrity.”

Yerevan accuses Azerbaijan of capturing dozens of square kilometers of Armenian territory in a series of incursions since May 2021. Azerbaijan denies the accusation.

Nearly 300 soldiers were killed on both sides in border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan on September 13-14, which proved to be the deadliest fighting since the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh that claimed the lives of close to 7,000 people.

During a virtual conference of CSTO leaders on October 28, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko bluntly rejected Armenia’s appeal for military assistance, opposing any CSTO intervention in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. He said that Azerbaijan is not an adversary of Belarus and other CSTO member states and its President Ilham Aliyev is “totally our guy.” Therefore, he said, Pashinyan should negotiate with Aliyev to settle “border disputes” between the two countries peacefully.

Lukashenko’s remarks sparked criticism of the CSTO in Armenia, triggering a war of words between Yerevan and Minsk.

In an interview with Armenia’s Public Television on November 16, Pashinyan blasted the CSTO for refusing to defend its member Armenia against Azerbaijan, a non-member.

He said answers to be received to Armenia’s question regarding the CSTO’s stance on this conflict at the upcoming summit of the organization where Russian President Vladimir Putin will also attend were “extremely important” to Yerevan. ”I think that the attitude of Armenian citizens towards the CSTO and the future of our relations with the CSTO will be formed based on this matter,” he said.

Vigen Khachatryan, a member of the ruling Civil Contract faction in the Armenian parliament, described the Russian official’s statement about the competence of the CSTO as “unserious.” ”The opinion expressed by him shows that at least he did not read the CSTO charter,” Khachatryan said.

“We expect that the CSTO will give a political assessment, that is, will demand the withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from the occupied sovereign territories of Armenia, and further steps of the CSTO will be based on this political assessment,” the pro-government lawmaker said.

Tigran Abrahamian, secretary of the opposition Pativ Unem faction in the Armenian parliament, said that he did not expect any “surprises” from the CSTO summit, given “the warm relations between CSTO member countries and Azerbaijan.”

“There will be no targeted assessment,” he said, stressing that the position of the Belarusian president was shared by “many other” CSTO members.

“I believe that at this stage we should try to resolve the situation by working with Russia. That is, to get what we can through its intermediary role, to get what we can in terms of its military assistance or supplies. It is much easier to solve the problem this way than by solving the same problem within the framework of the CSTO, even though the CSTO charter defines such obligations,” Abrahamian said.

To the question whether the issue of quitting the CSTO will be included in the government’s agenda if there is no specific assessment from the bloc, Khachatryan said. ”There is no much time left. We will wait for the answer and will think about what to do next.”

Asked by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service whether any steps would follow after the CSTO summit, the pro-government lawmaker said: ”I think that some steps will have to follow.”

In his public remarks on Monday Azerbaijani President Aliyev also boasted that “despite the fact that Azerbaijan is not a member of the CSTO it has more friends in it than Armenia.”

He claimed that Armenia “has failed to turn the CSTO members against Azerbaijan.”

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