The EU already deployed 40 civilian monitors to Armenian border areas in late October on a two-month mission agreed during an Armenian-Azerbaijani summit organized by the EU in Prague. Moscow criticized the deployment, saying that it was part of the West’s efforts to drive Russia out of the region.
EU member states are expected to approve next week a larger monitoring mission on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border that could last for two years.
“Although we are allies and the CSTO mission is fully ready [for deployment,] the Armenian side prefers to agree to the long-term deployment of a civilian EU mission there,” Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow.
“Of course, it’s Armenia’s right, but one must not forget that we are talking about the border with Azerbaijan and if that mission is deployed without Azerbaijan’s consent it could produce opposite results and create additional problems instead of boosting confidence,” he said.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev likewise warned last week that the planned EU deployment “will not improve security” because it has not been approved by Baku.
Lavrov said that Russia and other CSTO member states offered to send a similar team of monitors to the volatile border during a summit of the Russian-led military alliance held in Yerevan in November. He said Armenia rebuffed the offer because its ex-Soviet allies refused to voice “tough criticism” of Azerbaijani military operations along the frontier.
Yerevan appealed to the CSTO for support during the September 2022 border clashes which left at least 224 Armenian soldiers dead. Armenian leaders afterwards accused the alliance of ignoring the appeal in breach of its statutes.
During the November summit, the CSTO proposed what its then Secretary General Stanislav Zas called a set of “measures to assist Armenia in this difficult situation.” Zas said they included not only a monitoring mission but also “military-technical assistance.”
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian rejected the offer, citing the absence of CSTO statements condemning Azerbaijan.
Tensions between Armenia and the CSTO have risen further since then, with Pashinian continuing to accuse Russia and the bloc as a whole of not defending his country against Azerbaijani aggression. Pashinian announced last week that his administration has cancelled a CSTO military exercise which was due to be held in Armenia this year.
He also declared that the Russian military presence in Armenia may be putting the South Caucasus country’s security and territorial integrity at greater risk. The Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the claim as “absurd.”