A senior diplomat defended on Thursday Armenia’s decision to back Russia’s calls for a joint investigation into the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain which has further strained Moscow’s relations with Western powers.
London has said it is "highly likely" Moscow was behind the March 4 attack with a military-grade nerve agent on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, but Russia has insisted it is innocent and is taking its case before world bodies. Both sides have already suspended high-level contacts, and more than two dozen Western countries have joined Britain in expelling over 150 diplomats in retaliation for the poisonings, with Russia responding in kind.
On Wednesday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) turned down a Russian bid to be involved in a joint investigation of the incident with Britain. Only 6 of the 41 countries making up the executive body of the global chemical weapons watchdog voted for it.
Armenia is presently not part of the OPCW body. But it did join 13 other nations, including neighboring Azerbaijan and Iran, in issuing a statement that backed the Russian proposal.
“We are not defending Russia. We just want this case to be fully solved,” said Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian.
“At this stage one should refrain from any judgment, evaluation or action [on the Skripal case] until there are answers to the three following questions,” Kocharian told reporters. “First, where was that chemical weapon manufactured? What is its origin? Second, who carried out [the chemical attack?] And third, who ordered it?”
Stepan Grigorian, a pro-Western political analyst, insisted that the Armenian government has adopted a pro-Russian position on the Skripal case. He said that could inflict more serious damage on Armenia’s relations with West than Yerevan’s indirect endorsement of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 did.
“That attack [on the Skripals] happened on Western territory,” Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They will take it more seriously and I don’t exclude that it will affect the Armenia-West relationship.”
Kocharian was more sanguine about that relationship. “I don’t think that a country that wants the truth to be established can have complications,” he said.