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CSTO Position On Armenia-Azerbaijan Border Standoff ‘Extremely Important’ To Yerevan


Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian addresses parliament. November 16, 2022.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian hopes that Russia and four other post-Soviet states making up a defense alliance with Armenia will denounce what Yerevan calls Azerbaijan’s occupation of parts of sovereign Armenian territory when their leaders meet in the Armenian capital next week.

Official Yerevan says Azerbaijan currently occupies dozens of square kilometers of Armenian territory that it captured as a result of a series of incursions made since May 2021. Baku denies the claim.

Addressing the National Assembly on Wednesday, Pashinian stressed that Yerevan has “no desire to incite a war” between the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Azerbaijan, but warned that a political stance of the bloc that also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan was “very important” to Armenia and its public.

“Armenia’s position is clear – the Azerbaijani troops must withdraw from the occupied territories of Armenia to the positions that they held before May 12, 2021. The international community, in fact, supports our position. We hope that the CSTO will also defend our position,” Pashinian said.

In what was rare open criticism of the Russia-led alliance the Armenian leader said that “the kind of situation is odd because it would seem that the CSTO should have clearly defended out position and we would have to work with other partners, but the situation is quite the opposite.”

Leaders of the CSTO, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, are due to gather for a summit in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on November 23.

Earlier, Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, publicly rejected Armenia’s demands for a clear stance of the CSTO on Azerbaijan. He made it clear that Azerbaijan is a friendly nation for the rest of the CSTO member states and that the organization will not take any military action against it or otherwise unilaterally support Armenia. Instead, he called on Yerevan and Baku to resolve their differences through negotiations and reach an agreement that he said Russia would “bless.”

Lukashenko’s position equating CSTO-member Armenia with non-member Azerbaijan sparked some angry reactions in Armenia, with some opposition groups calling for the country to quit the Russia-led defense alliance or freeze its participation in it.

In his remarks today Pashinian expressed a hope that the upcoming CSTO summit will “register consensus” on the matter.

“This is a fundamental decision for Armenia… We say that a political position of the CSTO is extremely important to us. And I think that the attitude of Armenian citizens towards the CSTO and the future of our relations with the CSTO will be formed based on this matter,” he said.

During the question-and-answer session in parliament the Armenian prime minister also reaffirmed his government’s support for so-called “Russian proposals” for a peace deal with Azerbaijan implying that the issue of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh should be suspended indefinitely.

Responding to criticism from the opposition, Pashinian claimed that with that his government’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh met the requirements of the opposition that had previously criticized the current Armenian authorities for ignoring the matter in their negotiations with Azerbaijan.

“If the opposition now is of a different opinion and thinks that Armenia should reject Russia’s proposals, it would be right if they spoke about it in public,” Pashinian said.

Pashinian also spoke about issues of border delimitation and unblocking of transport links in the region. He said that instead of a detailed peace deal Armenia espouses a framework agreement with Azerbaijan. At the same time, he acknowledged that the process of border delimitation and demarcation may not be completed before the signing of this peace agreement. In this view, he suggested that Azerbaijan and Armenia carry out a mirror withdrawal of troops along their border to the administrative border line that existed before the two countries became independent and deploy border guards instead.

Earlier, officials in Yerevan and Baku did not exclude that a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan could be concluded by the end of the year.

In his remarks on Wednesday the Armenian leader reiterated that Armenia is ready to open up transport links. He said that if Azerbaijan is really interested in the functioning of regional transport links and “does not use the issue as a pretext for a new escalation”, then “the issue of opening and restoring these links can be considered resolved.”

“We can make concrete decisions. It is only necessary to work in this direction and not to hold meetings for the sake of meetings,” Pashinian underscored.

The Armenian premier said that since the parties do not always have time to address all existing issues during summits and high-level meetings, it is possible to intensify the work of commissions on both sides.

Earlier, Pashinian repeatedly rejected Azerbaijan’s demand for an extraterritorial corridor to its western exclave of Nakhichevan, insisting that Armenia must maintain sovereignty over all transport routes passing through its territory.

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