Armenia should not leave the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) despite pro-Azerbaijani statements made some members of the Russian-led defense pact, the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) said on Thursday.
“Is this sufficient grounds for us to walk away from the alliance? The answer is clear: there is no alternative to those allied relations,” Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Zurabian, whose party is headed by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, said that Armenia should work with Russia, its principal ally, in countering other CSTO member states that are “not that friendly to Armenia.”
“We need to look for solutions to problems primarily in the format of bilateral Russian-Armenian cooperation, rather than within the CSTO,” he said. “If those problems are solved in the bilateral format, their solution within the CSTO will become secondary.”
Armenia has repeatedly accused Central Asian states aligned in the CSTO of undermining the bloc with their refusal to back it in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Armenian discontent with them increased following the April 2 outbreak of large-scale hostilities in Karabakh.
Neither Russia nor other CSTO member states publicly blamed Azerbaijan for the escalation. One of them, Kazakhstan, on the contrary forced the cancellation of a planned Eurasian Economic Union summit in Yerevan in a show of support for Azerbaijan.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), claimed on Thursday that Kazakhstan as well as Belarus will adopt “more balanced” positions on the Karabakh dispute after criticism voiced by President Serzh Sarkisian. He also said that “the Russian side has always supported our position.”
“I think that for all CSTO shortcomings, membership in the CSTO is important and necessary for Armenia and there is no alternative to it,” insisted Sharmazanov. “We joined the CSTO not to do Russia or any other state a favor but because that stems from our national interests.”
This position is broadly backed by not only the HAK but virtually all other opposition parties represented in the current Armenian parliament.