Armenia’s top army general raised its concerns over the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone with his counterparts from other ex-Soviet states making up the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) when they met in Yerevan on Friday.
“My colleagues were informed about the operational situation there at the beginning of April,” Colonel-General Yuri Khachaturov, the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, said after a regular session of the CSTO’s Military Committee.
“The Armenian side expressed serious concern about the hostilities provoked by Azerbaijan,” Khachaturov told the press. He said the participants “exchanged views on the issue.”
Neither Khachaturov nor the army chiefs from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan answered questions from journalists. Nikolay Bordyuzha, the secretary general of the Russian-led military alliance, also declined to talk to them.
Bordyuzha and the senior officers also met with President Serzh Sarkisian later in the day. According to Sarkisian’s office, this month’s large-scale clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces around Karabakh were on the agenda.
The CSTO Secretariat in Moscow made no specific mention of the fighting in a statement on the Yerevan meeting. It said vaguely that the top military representatives of the CSTO member states discussed “challenges and military threats in the CSTO’s areas of collective security.”
Bordyuzha’s press secretary, Vladimir Zaynetdinov, blamed Azerbaijan just hours after the hostilities broke out on April 2. “The Azerbaijani side’s actions in this case are leading to the escalation of the conflict,” he said.
However, neither Russia nor other CSTO member states have publicly pointed the finger at Baku. What is more, one of them, Kazakhstan, forced the cancellation of a planned Eurasian Economic Union summit in Yerevan in a show of support for Azerbaijan.
Armenia has repeatedly accused its nominal ex-Soviet allies of undermining the CSTO with their refusal to openly back it in the Karabakh conflict. Speaking at a CSTO summit in Moscow in December, Sarkisian said they should “learn” from NATO member states’ unanimous support for Turkey shown after the downing of a Russian warplane near the Syrian-Turkish border.
This might explain why Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian on Friday downplayed the bloc’s significance to Armenia’s national security. “We pin our hopes on ourselves, not the CSTO,” he told journalists. “I’ve always said that.”
“A country that outsources its security to other forces, no matter how friendly, is doomed,” said Kocharian.
But he insisted at the same time that membership in the CSTO remains by and large “beneficial” for Armenia.