The leaders of Russia and five other ex-Soviet states making up the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) stand for a “solely peaceful” resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, President Serzh Sarkisian said after hosting their latest summit in Yerevan on Friday.
Sarkisian, Russian President Vladimir Putin, their counterparts from Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Bakijan Sagintayev met in the Armenian capital to discuss further activities and priorities of the Russian-led defense pact.
They signed two dozen statements and other documents, including a 10-year “strategy of CSTO collective security” as a result. None of those documents was immediately made public.
Speaking at the end of the summit, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said the CSTO leaders agreed to publicize those priorities only after their governments conduct “thorough work” aimed at raising the bloc’s international profile. Lukashenko said they need to “force” NATO and other international security structures to “recognize our organization.”
Sarkisian, who formally passed on Armenia’s one-year rotating presidency of the bloc to Belarus, was the only CSTO leader to address the press after the summit. But he did not answer any questions from journalists.
“The CSTO partners voiced support for agreements on preventing the escalation of the situation in the conflict zone and creating conditions for advancing the peace process which were reached at the [Armenian-Azerbaijani] summits on the Nagorno-Karabakh problem organized in Vienna and Saint-Petersburg this year,” said Sarkisian.
“The [CSTO] session reaffirmed the need for a solely peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem and voiced support for the efforts by the [U.S., Russian and French] co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group to settle the conflict on the basis of international law,” added the Armenian leader.
Sarkisian noted that the CSTO leaders specifically backed the three mediators’ pursuit of a Karabakh settlement based on the internationally recognized principles of non-use of force, territorial integrity of states, and peoples’ right to self-determination.
Armenia -- Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (L) welcomes his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin upon his arrival at Yerevan airport, October 14, 2016
The CSTO’s Central Asian member states -- notably Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan -- have signed pro-Azerbaijani declarations by Muslim and Turkic nations which called for a Karabakh peace based only on one of those principles: territorial integrity. Armenia has repeatedly criticized them for doing that.
Armenia’s tensions with Kazakhstan rose in April after the Central Asian republic blocked a planned meeting in Yerevan of the prime ministers of Eurasian Economic Union member states. Kazakhstan’s stance was widely construed as a show of support for Azerbaijan in the wake of heavy fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces around Karabakh.
Incidentally, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev did not attend the CSTO’s Yerevan summit, ostensibly because of ill health. Nazarbayev also cancelled a trip to Baku scheduled for this week.
The Karabakh issue is thought to be the reason why the CSTO has delayed the appointment, in accordance with its statutes, of an Armenian official as its next secretary general. Armenia was originally due to name the next CSTO head late last year. The bloc’s leaders decided, however, to extend the current Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha’s tenure by one year.
They again discussed the matter but reached no agreement in Yerevan. “We removed the issue of CSTO secretary general from the agenda and we will discuss it at the end of this year in Saint-Petersburg,” Sarkisian said without elaborating.