Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan declared on Tuesday, November 14, 2023, that he won't partake in the upcoming summit of the Collective Security Council of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) scheduled for November 23, 2023 in Minsk. According to CIVILNET, the Prime Minister's Office disclosed that this decision was conveyed during a telephone conversation initiated by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Armenia's Security Council Secretary, Armen Grigoryan, has revealed that Armenia's absence from CSTO meetings is due to what they perceive as the security bloc's failure to act against Azerbaijani assaults on Armenian territory. Specifically, Article 4 of the CSTO charter mandates collective defense against external threats, which calls into question the bloc's response strategy amidst heightened regional tensions.
Grigoryan stressed that Armenia has raised numerous concerns with the CSTO and is linking their future meeting participation to receiving satisfactory responses. The lack of adequate answers to their queries remains the principal reason behind Armenia's decision not to partake in the CSTO Collective Security Council session. “Until now, we do not have the answer to these questions, and this is also the reason why we are not participating in the session of the CSTO Collective Security Council”, said Grigoryan.
Earlier in October 2023, Pashinyan had already addressed his discontent with the allies' response to the turbulence with Azerbaijan. "When hundreds of thousands of Armenians were fleeing from Nagorno Karabakh to the Republic of Armenia, not only did our allies in the security sector refuse to help us, but they also made public calls for a change of power in Armenia, to overthrow the democratic government", he said.
The decision to pass the CSTO meeting yielded apparent concerns from the block. BelTA reported that Natalya Eismont, the Press Secretary of the Belarusian head of state, conveyed that Aleksandr Lukashenko "suggested that the prime minister of Armenia should not hurry, should not make hasty decisions but should seriously think about the next steps, which may be aimed at disintegration."
While the Press Secretary of the Russian President, Dmitry Peskov, expressed borderline sympathetic regret regarding Pashinyan's choice, the broader picture of the Kremlin's stance seems far more aggressive. In her latest briefing, the official representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, underlined: "Partners reach out to us to maintain all of this [membership in the Eurasian Economic Union] while taking steps themselves — particularly in the security sphere — that damage bilateral relations and ignore Russia's interests."
She questioned whether this behavior was an attempt to benefit from multiple partnerships, adding, "If this is an attempt to sit on two chairs, it certainly doesn't benefit anyone", referring to Armenia's recent steps towards intensifying defense contacts with France and relationship with the EU. In the best traditions of Kremlin narrative, there always stands the same old enemy: "The West is obviously behind it. The West, whose plans in Ukraine have failed, is now gripping Armenia, trying to tear it away from Russia", Zakharova further noted.
As the once formal alliance between Russia and Armenia has faced strains, the deterioration in relations is somewhat noticeable, though with the extent coming into question. Despite Yerevan openly voicing doubts about the significance of its partnership with Russia, no official decision to exit CSTO has been announced. However, with Armenia's strengthening diplomatic connections to Western nations, it is plausible that the maintenance of this membership is only a matter of time.
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