According to the Armenian premier’s press office, Pashinian made this known during a phone call with President of Belarus Alyaksandr Lukashenka reported on Tuesday.
The report said the phone call was initiated by the Belarusian leader. It said that Pashinian expressed a hope that CSTO partners would take his decision with understanding. No further details have been provided regarding the motivation behind this decision.
Belarus’s Belta news agency later quoted Natallia Eismant, a spokeswoman for Lukashenka, as saying that the Belarussian leader took Pashinian’s decision in its stride, but added: “The president suggested that the prime minister of Armenia should not make hasty decisions, but should seriously think over his next steps that could be aimed at disintegration.”
Pashinian’s move comes as no surprise as Armenia has repeatedly expressed its discontent with the Russia-led alliance. In September 2022, Armenia called on the CSTO to condemn Azerbaijan’s invasion of its sovereign territory, but its request went unanswered.
Earlier this year, Pashinian stated during a press conference that Armenia would not host CSTO military exercises in 2023, citing the need for clear assessments from the alliance regarding Azerbaijan’s continuing occupation of chunks of Armenia’s sovereign territories “in order to understand what the area of the CSTO’s responsibility is.”
Furthermore, Armenia has chosen not to fill its quota for the CSTO Deputy Secretary General. Also, after recalling its ambassador from the military alliance Armenia has not appointed a replacement yet.
Pro-government lawmaker Arman Yeghoyan said that behind Pashinian’s latest decision is Yerevan’s discontent with the CSTO that it has articulated for a long time.
“For several years now, after [Azerbaijan’s] attack against the sovereign territory of Armenia in 2021, after our appeal to the CSTO and its inadequate response we have repeatedly expressed our position on the activities of that organization. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to you,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
Pashinian also declined to attend a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a wider and looser grouping of ex-Soviet states, in Kyrgyzstan on October 13. The secretary of his Security Council, Armen Grigorian, last week similarly shunned a meeting of his CIS counterparts in Moscow, meeting with a visiting U.S. diplomat instead.
These moves have increasingly been seen in Russia, which dominates the CSTO, as “unfriendly.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry last week accused Pashinian’s administration of systematically “destroying” Russian-Armenian relations, a claim dismissed in Yerevan.
Tensions between Armenia and Russia rose further after Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh that led to the exodus of the region’s virtually entire ethnic Armenian population. Armenia, in particular, blamed Russian peacekeepers deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh under a 2020 ceasefire agreement between Moscow, Baku and Yerevan for failure to protect the local Armenians.
Despite the deepening rift, Pashinian has so far announced no plans to pull his country out of the CSTO or demand the withdrawal of Russian troops stationed in Armenia.
The Kremlin said later on Tuesday that it “regrets” Pashinian’s latest decision not to attend the upcoming CSTO summit.
“We understand that each head of government or head of state may have his own events in his work schedule, his own circumstances. But one can only express regret, because such meetings are a very good occasion for exchanging opinions, for synchronizing watches,” the Russian president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said as quoted by Russia’s TASS news agency.