The presidents of Russia and other CSTO member states meet in Minsk, November 23, 2023

By Shoghik Galstian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Armenia could leave the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) due to the Russian-led alliance’s reluctance to openly support it in the conflict with Azerbaijan, a leading member of the ruling Civil Contract party said on Monday, November 27.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan also did not rule out such a possibility on Friday one day after boycotting a summit of the leaders of Russia and other CSTO member states held in Minsk. He again accused the CSTO of not honoring its security obligations to Armenia.

“There is a defined situation in which we would definitely leave [the CSTO,]” Gevorg Papoyan, the deputy chairman of Civil Contract’s governing board, told journalists. “We don’t have that situation yet.”

“But there is also a situation where we would definitely participate in those [CSTO] meetings. There is no such situation either,” he said, alluding to an effective freeze on Armenia’s participation in the alliance’s activities.

Papoyan did not specify those “situations.” Nor did he say if Pashinyan’s government wants to obtain security guarantees from Western powers before officially reorienting Armenia’s towards the United States and the European Union.

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The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Yerevan of planning such a reorientation in late September as tensions between the two long-time allies rose further following Azerbaijan’s military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh which Moscow did not prevent, stop or even condemn.

In recent months, Pashinyan has repeatedly said that the alliance with Russia cannot guarantee Armenia’s national security. His refusal to attend the CSTO summit in Minsk stoked speculation about the South Caucasus state’s imminent exit from the alliance.

Alen Simonian, the Armenian parliament speaker and another senior Civil Contract member, said last week that he will not attend an upcoming session of the CSTO’s Parliamentary Assembly.

The secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on Monday downplayed Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s refusal to attend last week’s summit of the leaders of ex-Soviet states making up the Russian-led military alliance.

Imangali Tasmagambetov, who is due to visit Yerevan soon, claimed that Pashinyan did not fly to Minsk for the summit last Thursday for purely “technical” reasons.

“In my view, it makes no sense to draw any categorical conclusions from this situation,” Tasmagambetov told the TASS news agency. “Armenia was and remains our ally.”

Pashinyan’s boycott of the summit highlighted his government’s mounting tensions with the other CSTO member states and Russia in particular. Pashinyan on Friday again accused the CSTO of not honoring its security commitments to Armenia. What is more, he did not rule out the possibility of eventually pulling his country out of his alliance.

Speaking on the eve of the Minsk summit, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that Pashinyan’s administration is planning a “radical change” of Armenia’s traditional geopolitical orientation at the behest of Western powers. The ministry had earlier accused it of “ruining” Russian-Armenian relations.

For his part, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed over the weekend the criticism of the CSTO voiced by Pashinyan as well as other Armenian leaders. Peskov expressed hope that Yerevan will soon resume its “full-fledged participation in the organization.”

Earlier this year, Armenia also refused to participate in CSTO military exercises and boycotted a meeting of the defense ministers of the bloc’s member states.

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