YEREVAN — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has criticized the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for its refusal to support Armenia when it faced “Azerbaijan’s aggression.”
Speaking at a CSTO summit in Yerevan on November 23, Pashinian said it was “depressing that Armenia’s membership in the CSTO has failed to contain Azerbaijani aggression.” He said this had been “hugely damaging to the CSTO’s image both in our country and abroad.”
Armenia asked for military help in September after deadly clashes broke out between the two Caucasus neighbors, but the CSTO responded only by sending its secretary-general to the conflict zone and offering to set up a working group to analyse the situation.
Six countries — Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Russia — comprise the CSTO, which was established in October 2002.
Pashinian said his country had supported CSTO member Kazakhstan immediately in early January when Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev asked CSTO troops to enter his country following unprecedented antigovernment protests.
WATCH: Hundreds of Armenians unhappy about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to their country gathered at two separate rallies in Yerevan on November 23.
“Armenia is ending its chairmanship of the CSTO. Although it is an anniversary year [for the CSTO], for Armenia it was not an anniversary year at all. In the last two years, a CSTO member-state has been attacked by Azerbaijan at least three times, and actually, till now, we have not received any reaction from the CSTO regarding Azerbaijan’s aggression, which is a big blow to the CSTO’s image,” Pashinian said.
Armenia says dozens of square kilometers of its sovereign territory were seized by Azerbaijan during the military conflict between the two countries in May 2021, in November 2021, and in September this year.
Pashinian met later on November 23 with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Yerevan summit to discuss bilateral relations and regional issues.
At the start of the meeting Pashinian reportedly noted that the CSTO did not manage to reach a consensus on all issues on the agenda of the summit.
Pahinian said during the summit that he was not ready to sign draft documents regarding “joint measures on providing assistance to Armenia” that he said did not address Yerevan’s concerns regarding the CSTO’s political position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
“Under these conditions, the lack of a clear political assessment of the situation and the failure to make the above decision may not only mean the CSTO’s refusal from allied obligations but may also be interpreted by Azerbaijan as a green light from the CSTO for further aggression against Armenia,” Pashinian said at the summit.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the CSTO was a “necessary” organization whose services were “very much in demand” to resolve regional conflicts.
“It is very important that Armenia and Azerbaijan agree on a peace treaty,” said Peskov, who accompanied Putin to Yerevan. “This is our main task. And we all have to do our utmost to…make it happen,” he told reporters after the summit.
During his meeting with Putin, Pashinian raised the issue of honoring agreements that Armenia and Azerbaijan have reached through the Russian president’s mediation.
“These are very important issues, which, of course, we need to discuss, just as we need to discuss the agenda, which, we hope, will lead to a lasting peace in our region,” Pashinian said.
Putin, as quoted by the Kremlin, highlighted the allied nature of Russian-Armenian relations that he said have “deep roots.”
In his remarks at the summit the Russian leader said that a meeting between the leaders of Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in Sochi, Russia, on October 31 and their joint statement afterward created “a good basis for future compromises” between Yerevan and Baku.
Putin said that only through consistent implementation of agreements on border delimitation, unblocking of transport links, and solutions to humanitarian problems will it be possible to achieve normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“We hope that this will eventually pave the way for a peace treaty between Yerevan and Baku,” Putin said.
Prior to the summit hundreds of activists representing civil society and democratic institution rallied on November 23 in downtown Yerevan, demanding Armenia leave the CSTO. Among the demonstrators were Ukrainian citizens who protested Russia’s ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine launched in late February.
The leaders of the CSTO’s member states — Putin, Pashinian, and Toqaev along with Alyaksandr Lukashenka of Belarus, Sadyr Japarov of Kyrgyzstan, and Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan — met in the Armenian capital as Russia continued shelling Ukrainian towns and cities with missiles targeting energy infrastructure.
It was announced at the summit that Kazakh politician Imanghali Tasmaghambetov will replace Belarusian politician Stanislau Zas at the post of secretary-general of the CSTO.
The 65-year-old Tasmaghambetov, who has been known as one of the most loyal people to Kazakhstan’s former President Nursultan Nazarbaev, used to serve as Kazakhstan’s prime minister, deputy prime minister, mayor of the Kazakh capital, Astana, and the country’s largest city, Almaty.
His last official position was ambassador to Russia, the position he held before he announced his retirement in 2019.
With reporting by and RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service and AFP