By Ruzanna KhachatrianArmenia could pull out of a key arms control pact if arch-rival Azerbaijan continues its military build-up in the coming years, Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunian warned on Friday.
Harutiunian claimed that Azerbaijan is already failing to comply with the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which places specific limits on the deployment of troops and heavy weapons from the Atlantic coast to Russia's Ural mountains.
“The Republic of Armenia has made no such decision yet,” he said. “But if Azerbaijan does not stop buying and brining in large quantities of weapons in contravention of that treaty, Armenia could make such a decision.”
The CFE, which helped to end the Cold War, sets equal weapons quotas for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. All three South Caucasus states signed up to the treaty following the Soviet collapse. Earlier this week, Russia officially suspended its participation in the treaty in protest against failure by all NATO member states to ratify its revised 1999 version.
The treaty has clearly not prevented an intensifying arms race between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The latter is increasingly using its soaring oil revenues for a military build-up which Baku hopes will eventually enable it to win back Nagorno-Karabakh.
The two countries have long been accusing each other of exceeding their CFE ceilings. In particular, Azerbaijan says that Armenia has keeps a large part of its weaponry in Nagorno-Karabakh to imitate its compliance with the pact. Armenian officials, for their part, accuse Baku of obstructing international inspections of its military facilities.
Harutiunian issued the warning after hearings on Armenia’s defense doctrine organized by the National Assembly committee on defense and security. Artur Aghabekian, a retired army general heading the panel, likewise said that Yerevan should be prepared for such an option.
“Pulling out of the CFE does not stem from Armenia’s national interests,” said Aghabekian. “But if the treaty becomes non-existent, we should not regard that as a tragedy. Armenia would have to draw conclusions.”