Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Ukraine on Monday as Armenia remained reluctant to publicly take sides in Russia’s intensifying standoff with the West.
Nalbandian cited President Serzh Sarkisian’s cautious reaction to the situation after talks held in Yerevan with his visiting Serbian counterpart, Ivan Mrkic. “We hope that all possible steps will be taken to find legal and peace solutions that will help to reduce tension and resolve outstanding issues,” he told a joint news conference. He declined to comment further.
Ukraine -- Ukrainian servicemen ( back ) look from their military base as armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, stand guard outside in the village of Perevalnoye near the Crimean city of Simferopol, March 10, 2014
The West’s strong condemnation of Russia’s military intervention in Crimea and Moscow’s angry reaction to it is putting the Armenian leadership in an increasingly delicate position. Armenia has close military and economic ties with Russia that are expected to deepen further after its forthcoming accession to the Russian-led Customs Union. It is also dependent on economic assistance from the United States, the European Union as well as multilateral lending institutions.
There has been speculation that Yerevan might somehow be drawn into the conflict as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance of Russia and five other ex-Soviet states.
Nalbandian did not exclude that Russia will discuss the Ukraine situation with its CSTO allies. But he refused to be drawn on Armenia’s position in the event of such discussions.
“Naturally, many issues are discussed within the CSTO framework because there is an agreement to coordinate foreign policy within that framework,” he said. “When such discussions happen, we will see how they develop and what positions will be taken regarding the ongoing developments.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far discussed the crisis only with two of his ex-Soviet counterparts -- the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan. Their nations are part of both the CSTO and the Customs Union.