Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday that he has apologized to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian for questioning Armenia’s role in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
Still, Lukashenko continued to demand that a representative of Belarus, not Armenia, be appointed as the CSTO’s new secretary general. He said Pashinian himself “created this mess” by recalling the previous, Armenian head of the defense alliance, Yuri Khachaturov.
Khachaturov was sacked last month after being charged by Armenian authorities over a 2008 crackdown on opposition protesters in Yerevan. His three-year tour of duty was due to end in 2020. Pashinian wants another Armenian official to run the organization until that time.
Lukashenko again rejected that option at a November 12 meeting with a senior diplomat from Azerbaijan, Armenia’s arch-foe which is not a CSTO member.
Pashinian condemned the move, saying that he will demand “explanations” from the Belarusian leader at the next CSTO summit slated for December 6. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry scoffed at the criticism, saying that Pashinian “has not yet realized that the rules of street politics are not acceptable in international politics.”
The summit in Saint Petersburg was cancelled due to the CSTO member states’ continuing failure to reach consensus on the issue. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted instead a meeting of the leaders of another Russian-led bloc, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
Speaking to Russian journalists in Minsk, Lukashenko said he apologized to Pashinian at Saint Petersburg for his public statements on the issue. But he insisted that Yerevan should agree to the appointment of a Belarusian secretary general.
“The problem was created by [Pashinian,] not us,” Lukashenko said, adding that the Armenian prime minister should have consulted with fellow CSTO leaders before bringing criminal charges against Khachaturov for “political reasons.”
President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, another CSTO member, has openly sided with Lukashenko on the matter. Both strongmen maintain warm relations with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Belarus has been a major supplier of weapons to Azerbaijan.