Goodbye CSTO: Armenia Absent From Russia-led CSTO War Game

Kyrgyz and Kazakh armored vehicles seen with unidentified soldiers during the CSTO drills on October 11.

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was quoted on Monday indicating sweeping changes in his country’s policy vis-à-vis its arch-foe Azerbaijan and its ally Russia.

Armenia is ready to recognise the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave as part of Azerbaijan if Baku guarantees the security of its ethnic Armenian population, the Russian state news agency TASS and the Russian news outlet Ostorozhno, Novosti quoted Pashinyan as saying on Monday.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been a source of conflict between the two Caucasus neighbours since the years leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and between ethnic Armenians and Turkic Azeris for well over a century.

In 2020, Azerbaijan seized control of areas that had been controlled by ethnic Armenians in and around the mountain enclave, and since then it has periodically closed the only access road linking Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, on which the enclave relies for financial and military support.

“The 86,600 sq km of Azerbaijan’s territory includes Nagorno-Karabakh,” Pashinyan told a news conference, according to Ostorozhno, Novosti.

“If we understand each other correctly, then Armenia recognises the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within the named limits, and Baku – the territorial integrity of Armenia at 29,800 sq km.”

The outlet quoted him as saying he was prepared to do this – in effect accept Azerbaijan’s internationally recognised borders – if the rights of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh were guaranteed. He said the issue should be discussed in talks between the two countries.

“Armenia remains committed to the peace agenda in the region. And we hope that in the near future we will come to an agreement on the text of the peace treaty and be able to sign it,” he said, according to TASS.

Armenia absent from war game

Armenian troops are not taking part in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization’s (CSTO) one-week military maneuvers that kicked off near Kyrgyzstan’s northern town of Balykchy on October 6. The Kazakh Defense Ministry said troops from other CSTO members — Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan — are participating in the Indestructible Brotherhood drills. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said last month before joint Armenian-U.S. military exercises that Yerevan’s “full reliance on Moscow on security matters was a mistake.” He also said in September that Yerevan’s involvement in the CSTO was “not effective” for Armenia’s interests.

Goodbye CSTO

Pashinyan was also quoted as saying that his country could withdraw from Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), in a fresh show of discontent over the lack of support from its ally Russia.

Yerevan has grown increasingly frustrated over what it calls Russia’s failure to protect Armenia in the face of military threats from Azerbaijan.

“I am not ruling out that Armenia will take a decision to withdraw from the CSTO,” if the bloc fails to respect its treaty obligations, he told a news conference in Yerevan, as quoted by the Moscow Times.

Pashinyan’s remarks came ahead of the talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to be hosted by the Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Moscow.

Locked in a decades-long territorial conflict, the Caucasus neighbors have been seeking to negotiate a peace agreement with the help of the European Union and the United States.

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