CSTO Secretary-General visit to Armenia sparks criticism
Stanislav Zas, Secretary-General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which Armenia is a part of, has paid a two-day visit to Armenia. The visit of the CSTO Secretary-General occurred amid the escalation at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border which has been going on since May this year.
In Armenia, there were no expectations from Zais’ visit, moreover, he was considered late, since the secretary-general was expected to arrive back in May when the Azerbaijani Armed Forces crossed the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and penetrated several kilometers into the territory of Armenia. At the same time, Baku declares that it has not violated the border as it considers these lands its own.
In connection with the escalation, Armenia appealed to the military bloc, of which it is a member, to provide assistance and start consultations on this matter. This has never happened before.
The CSTO is a regional international structure. It was created in 1992, right after the collapse of the USSR. Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan very soon left the ranks of the CSTO. Now, its six members are Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
However, the reaction of the military bloc was received only a month and a half after Yerevan’s appeal. Moreover, the CSTO Secretary-General said that the aggravation of the situation is a “border incident” and does not fall under the provisions of the organization’s charter.
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Official part of the visit
In Yerevan, Zas met with the highest political and military leadership of the country, and also visited one of the military units in the Ararat region of Armenia.
The CSTO Secretary-General stated that the possibilities for a political settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border conflict have not been exhausted, and the work should be continued in the Russia-Armenia-Azerbaijan trilateral format.
At a meeting with the Prime Minister of Armenia, Zas said that the CSTO is closely monitoring the situation on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border and is “concerned about the frequency and geographical expansion of the of armed incidents”.
The Secretary-General also stressed that ensuring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the member states is one of the key priorities of the CSTO.
“Our patience is not unlimited”
On August 9, on the first day of his visit, Stanislav Zas met with the head of the Armenian Defense Ministry. Arshak Karapetyan openly expressed Armenia’s dissatisfaction with the position of the bloc headed by Stanislav Zas:
“We were expecting your visit back in May. This period was quite tense for Armenia, but, unfortunately, your visit did not take place”.
Arshak Karapetyan expressed regret that the decision-making mechanism in the CSTO does not correspond to the current changes in the operational situation. He also reported on Armenia’s position on the resolution of the conflict on the border:
“We, of course, strive to resolve this issue peacefully. At the same time, our patience is not unlimited: in the absence of a peaceful settlement of the situation on our borders, we reserve the right to resolve the issue by force”.
At the end of the meeting, the head of the Armenian Defense Ministry invited the CSTO Secretary-General to visit one of the military units of the republic, and he himself went to Moscow at the invitation of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
“Incidents at the border pose a threat to the security of Armenia”
Armenian journalists asked Zas a question about what proposals the CSTO had developed to resolve the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, and why the CSTO does not give a clear assessment of the incidents taking place here. The secretary-general replied that the situation is ” monitored by the CSTO”:
“We carry out organized monitoring, including with the help of the state structures of Armenia. Of course, we believe that the incidents on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border that you are talking about pose a security threat to the Caucasus region and, of course, Armenia, a member of the CSTO. If we talk about ways of solving the problem, we think that the possibilities for a political solution to this situation have not been exhausted, in fact, this would be the best option for everyone.
In addition, this [escalation on the border] makes it difficult to implement the cornerstone agreements reached between the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and find ways to establish peace in the region. We expect all parties to understand this and take steps to resolve their differences through political means”.
Political observer Hakob Badalyan believes that the visit of the CSTO Secretary-General to Armenia will not bring significant changes to the organization’s position:
“These changes are not issues that are being discussed at the level of the CSTO Secretary-General. As we understand, the position of the CSTO is conditioned by the political positions of the member states, and these political positions towards Azerbaijan have long been clear and visible to all of us. Therefore, I believe that the visit is mainly of business value. Perhaps, the expressed sentiments can in some sense change the general atmosphere and general impression of the CSTO’s behavior”.
Political scientist Garegin Petrosyan commented on Zas’ statement saying that the possibilities for a political settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border conflict have not been exhausted:
“Zas’ statement is conditioned by the fact of the uncertainty of the borders [between Armenia and Azerbaijan]. In this context, preventing the aggravation of the conflict is in the sphere of interests of the CSTO. Although this structure does not have a lot of tools. Obviously, we can only connect expectations with Russia”.
In the CSTO as a structure, there are certain shortcomings, and so far the organization has not shown itself in any conflict, unlike the North Atlantic Alliance, the political scientist believes:
“Therefore, it is unrealistic to expect something from the CSTO”.