Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian hit out at non-Russian members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on Thursday, saying that they do not seem to be acting like Armenia’s allies.
“Armenia’s has proved, both before and now, the fact of its being a loyal ally. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same thing about all of our CSTO partners,” Pashinian said after taking part in a summit in Saint Petersburg of another Russian-led bloc, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
“Therefore, we are telling them: let’s clarify our relationships. Are we allies or not? If we are allies then we must honor our [CSTO] obligations,” he told members of the Armenian community in Russia’s second largest city.
“We do not understand actions that run counter to those obligations,” he said. “We need to know on whom we can rely and on whom we can’t.”
“I am convinced that the CSTO can prevent Azerbaijan from succumbing to a temptation to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with military methods. So is the CSTO going to use that instrument or not?” added Pashinian.
The Armenian leader appeared to primarily refer to Belarus, whose long-serving President Alexander Lukashenko has openly opposed the appointment of another Armenian secretary general of the CSTO. Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev sided with Lukashenko at a CSTO summit held last month.
Both Lukashenko and Nazarbayev maintain warm relations with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Belarus has been a major supplier of weapons to Azerbaijan.
Lukashenko made a point of publicly reaffirming his position on the issue of CSTO secretary general at a November 12 meeting with a senior diplomat from Azerbaijan. Pashinian condemned the move, saying that he will demand “explanations” from the Belarusian as well as Kazakh leaders at the next CSTO summit.
The summit was due to take place in Saint Petersburg on Thursday. But it was cancelled due to the CSTO member states’ continuing failure to reach consensus on the next head of the organization.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted instead a summit of the EEU, which comprises five of the six ex-Soviet republics making up the CSTO.
Pashinian did not mention the CSTO controversy in his opening remarks at the EEU gathering. He stressed instead the trade bloc’s importance to the Armenian economy. He touted a 15 percent rise in Armenia’s trade with Russia and the other EEU member states recorded in the first ten months of this year.
“Armenia is interested in a further deepening of integration processes in the EEU,” added Pashinian.
Meanwhile, Lukashenko was reported to claim in Saint Petersburg that a representative of Belarus will be named CSTO secretary general after all. “We unexpectedly nearly held a session of the CSTO and solved, in principle, the problem of appointing secretary general,” the BelTa news agency quoted him as saying.
Pashinian’s press secretary, Arman Yeghoyan, denied the claim. “The issue has still not been solved,” he told the Interfax news agency. “As you know, there was no CSTO meeting. Armenia’s position on the issue hasn’t changed.”
The CSTO leaders were joined by the presidents of several other ex-Soviet states for a separate meeting held in the Russian city later in the day.