Withdrawal from CSTO not on the agenda of Yerevan: What is the danger?
Withdrawal from CSTO
“Armenia discussed the issue of withdrawing from the CSTO,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mnatsakan Safaryan reports, and discussion took place “in the context of Azerbaijan’s aggression against Armenia in September 2022,” when the Azerbaijani Armed Forces “continued the invasion of the country that began in May 2021.”
According to the diplomat, the Armenian authorities decided to continue working with the Russian-led military bloc, despite the fact that “the expectations of the Armenian side did not come true,” Safaryan says. According to him, the situation is complicated even now, and the Armenian authorities continue to hope that discussions within the CSTO “will bring certain results.”
In parallel with the discussion in Armenia of the need to leave the military bloc from Moscow, they say that the CSTO observers are ready to deploy on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border if the Armenian side agrees.
This cannot be allowed, including for security reasons, political scientist Stepan Grigoryan believes. He is sure that Russia promised Azerbaijan “the opportunity to move deep into the territory of Armenia along the entire length of the border, and the CSTO observers will suggest how best to do this.”
Before the Mirzoyan-Bayramov talks scheduled for May 19 in Moscow, political scientists are discussing obvious differences in the positions of Armenia and Russia, as well as tensions in relations. After a long silence, the Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia for the first time spoke about the fact that Armenia, having not received the answer it expected from the CSTO, was discussing the issue of withdrawing from the CSTO. He also stressed the fact of Russia’s non-compliance with a number of treaty obligations. It was also about the fact that Armenia does not receive weapons from Russia for which it has been paid.
“Armenia would win if observers were deployed”
In an interview with the Tsargrad TV channel, Sergei Lavrov stated that “Armenia would have won and would have received a more stable situation” if it had agreed to host the CSTO observation mission:
“A document was prepared on the deployment of an observer mission of the Collective Security Treaty Organization on Armenian territory in accordance with the request of our Armenian allies. The document was fully agreed upon at the level of foreign ministers. Then, at the last moment, at the summit itself, Armenian friends asked to postpone its adoption. Until now, it remains in paper form and cannot be realized.”
Both the Armenian Foreign Ministry and the country’s prime minister have repeatedly stated that they expect from the CSTO, first of all, “a political assessment of Azerbaijan’s aggression.” It was also expected that the CSTO would recognize the sovereign territory of Armenia as a zone of its responsibility. But the allies replied that the border was not delimited.
“This is important not only for Armenia, but also for the CSTO. After all, if you say that there is no border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, then there is no CSTO, because the CSTO has a zone of responsibility, which is defined by borders. If there is no border, then there is no area of responsibility, if there is no area of responsibility, then there is no organization,” Pashinyan said.
“Discussions about exiting the bloc may resume at some point”
The Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia recalled that Yerevan is still waiting for a political assessment of the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border from the CSTO.
Journalists asked why the decision to withdraw from the organization had not been made if the issue had already been discussed by the authorities.
“Some issues were then discussed at the CSTO summit. As you know, the work continues, and we have announced it. Discussions of the statement on the situation in the South Caucasus are expected in the near future, which we will additionally report on,” he replied.
At the moment, the issue of withdrawal from the CSTO is not on the agenda, Mnatsakan Safaryan said.
The pro-Russian parliamentary opposition claims that the CSTO support package also included arming and stationing troops on the border, but the authorities have abandoned it. Safaryan did not answer a question from reporters about this, saying that he does not want to disclose details yet.
Political scientist Stepan Grigoryan, when asked why Armenia does not leave the CSTO, replied that it is difficult to explain:
“Perhaps the government has some expectations. Let’s say they think that Russia’s policy will change, so they don’t want to go for a final break in relations.”
At the same time, he sees risks in the fact that Armenia does not leave the bloc and does not freeze its membership, since the CSTO does not recognize the territorial integrity of Armenia.
The political scientist does not consider it accidental that the topic of readiness to deploy CSTO observers on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border is being actively discussed by Russia. He assumes that the purpose of these conversations is, first of all, to ensure that EU monitors monitoring the Armenian-Azerbaijani border leave the region:
“And the Russian Federation and the CSTO promised Azerbaijan that it would be able to move deep into the territory of Armenia along the entire length of the border. Now Azerbaijan is demanding that Russia fulfill this promise.”
According to Grigoryan, this promise is one of the reasons for sending CSTO observers to Armenia. If military bloc monitors are stationed on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, they will “give instructions and advice to Azerbaijani troops” on how to infiltrate the sovereign territory of Armenia along the entire border.
“Besides, they will not let the EU monitors record it. For example, the EU observer will record that the Azerbaijanis have invaded the territory of Armenia. At the same time, the CSTO observer will say, but we did not see this. And this will become a controversial issue.“
He believes that Armenia should freeze its membership in the CSTO, but is in no hurry to criticize the government, which will not make this decision hastily. The authorities may have some information, based on which the decision not to leave the bloc “could be regarded as logical,” Grigoryan believes.
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Deployment of CSTO observers on the border