The secretary general of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on Thursday condemned as “provocative” an armed incident on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan which left three Armenian soldiers dead.
“We regard these actions in the territory of a CSTO member state as provocative, especially against the backdrop of the quite serious fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, involving heavy weaponry, in April this year,” Nikolay Bordyuzha said, implicitly blaming Baku for the incident.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said that the three soldiers were killed during an Azerbaijani incursion near Chinari, a village in Armenia’s northern Tavush province. The Azerbaijani military claimed the opposite, saying that an Armenian commando unit was ambushed by its forces while entering Azerbaijani territory.
In a written statement, Bordyuzha said that the CSTO Secretariat in Moscow reacted to news of the fighting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier with “particular alarm.”
“Given the efforts made by both sides as well as the leaders of several states [after the April escalation,] it looked as though the process of the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem will move forward more actively,” he said. “However, reports coming from the region lately about regular ceasefire violations and especially yet another incident on December 29 … are a cause for serious concern.”
Armenia has repeatedly criticized other ex-Soviet states aligned in the CSTO for not blaming Azerbaijan for ceasefire violations in the conflict zone. Speaking at a CSTO summit in December 2015, President Serzh 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.
Speaking shortly before Bordyuzha’s statement, a senior lawmaker from Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Gagik Melikian, said the CSTO “must definitely react” to the Tavush fighting. “Let’s wait and see,” Melikian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The HHK’s chief spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, welcomed Bordyuzha’s reaction later in the day. “By pointing out that the attack took place near Chinari, Bordyuzha affirmed that Azerbaijani carried out an incursion,” he said.
Sharmazanov also praised the Russian head of the CSTO for referring to Karabakh as a “republic.” “I don’t think this was a slip of the tongue,” he said. “I think it’s a clear signal addressed to Azerbaijan. For the first time ever, a structure like the CSTO uses the term ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.’”
“I think that this statement should serve as an example for other international structures,” added the Armenian official.