The Moscow-led defense alliance that Armenia is a member of has no common decisions on any restrictions on arms supplies to other counties, a senior Russian lawmaker said in Yerevan on Tuesday when asked about deliveries of weapons to Azerbaijan.
Konstantin Zatulin, who is deputy head of a Russian State Duma committee dealing with post-Soviet states, was in the Armenian capital to attend a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military bloc embracing Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia.
Successive Armenian governments have repeatedly raised the issue of arms supplies by CSTO members, namely Russia and Belarus, to Azerbaijan, which is not a member of the organization.
It is believed that since 2011 Baku has purchased from Moscow up to 4 billion dollars’ worth of arms, including some modern offensive weapons. Belarus, another CSTO member, has also supplied Azerbaijan with significant amounts of military hardware.
Hundreds of Armenians staged protests in front of the Russian embassy in Yerevan in April 2016 in the wake of a brief war in Nagorno-Karabakh in which Azerbaijan used some of the weapons purchased from Russia. Scores of soldiers were killed on both sides during four days of fighting – the most serious escalation in the conflict zone since a fragile 1994 ceasefire brokered by Russia.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) Zatulin said Azerbaijan should not have used the Russian weapons in the 2016 clashes. “In general, I believe it was unreasonable for Azerbaijan to commit a large-scale ceasefire violation in April 2016. I support a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and from this point of view I hope that corresponding [Russian] bodies, our companies and the state will draw certain conclusions,” the Russian lawmaker said.
Zatulin further argued that while Russia has sold weapons to Azerbaijan at market prices, Armenia, as a member of the CSTO, has received armaments from Moscow at knock-down prices.
“Azerbaijan is a country that enjoys sufficient resources for purchasing armaments. It purchases weapons not only from Russia, but also from Israel, for example, and other countries,” he said.
To the remark that Azerbaijan can afford to buy more Russian arms than Armenia, which disturbs the military balance in the region, Zatulin replied: “I cannot say whether Azerbaijan buys more or less. I can say that a new agreement has just been concluded between Russia and Armenia on the supply of fighter jets, there is a decision to strengthen the Russian military base in Armenia. As you know, we have no military base in the territory of Azerbaijan.”
As for whether CSTO-member states should have “internal discipline” in terms of selling weapons to other countries, Zatulin said that this could be a matter of discussion within the organization. “We need to have a common opinion on that… But I am afraid that not only Russia, but some other CSTO-member states as well will have objections to any bans or limitations in this regard,” the Russian lawmaker concluded.