Armenia Appeals to Russian-Led CSTO After Armed Incursions by Azerbaijan
This time into Armenia proper
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan informed an emergency session of his nation’s Security Council today that the government has requested assistance from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a security body of six former Soviet republics including Russia.
He reported that yesterday morning Azerbaijani troops crossed into the province of Syunik in southern Armenia and had surrounded Sev Lake, including that part of it bordering Armenian territory.
Today it’s reported that Azeri troops have also advanced on Vardenis in Gegharkunik province and Sisian in Syunik province. Pashinyan estimates there are some 250 foreign troops in his nation at the moment.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry released a statement saying it considered “actions taken by Azerbaijan since May 12 as overt provocation and, in order to avoid unpredictable developments, demands that the armed forces of that country return to their original positions immediately and refrain from encroachments on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia.”
“In case of menace to safety, stability, territorial integrity and sovereignty of one or several Member States or menace to international peace and safety of the Member States shall immediately launch the mechanism of joint consultations for the purpose of their positions coordination, develop and take measures for assistance to such Member States for the purpose of elimination of the arisen menace.”
That is the article that Russia refused to honor last September when Azerbaijan, with air and logistical support from Turkey, invaded the small territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, even after Azerbaijan shot down a Russian military helicopter over Armenian territory and killed two of its crew members. [There was nothing to “honor”. Nagorno-Karabakh is not a CSTO member and is not even recognized by Russia, nor even by Armenia itself.]
The acting foreign minister of Armenian, Ara Aivazian, held a phone conversation today with Secretary General Stanislav Zas of the CSTO, briefing him on the Azerbaijani incursion and warning that the action not only threatens Armenia but that “it also poses a serious threat to regional security and stability.” Acting Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutyunyan also briefed the CSTO chief.
Armenia’s Permanent and Plenipotentiary Representative of Armenia to the CSTO, Viktor Biyagov, stated: “According to the Armenian side, the armed forces of Azerbaijan crossed the border and advanced deep into the territory of Armenia for several kilometers.”
The CSTO responded by issuing a statement that reads:
“The CSTO is closely following the developments in the border regions of Syunik Province of Armenia. As the situation develops, if necessary, measures will be taken in accordance with the provisions of the Collective Security Treaty and the CSTO Charter.”
Armenian political analyst Tigran Abrahamyan, head of the Henaket Analytical Center, described the situation as “at least near-critical, if not critical.”
He elaborated on that contention in stating:
“Even if the situation is settled, and the Azerbaijani servicemen return to their initial positions, we can assume that other concessions might be made either on the border on the political arena. The Security Council session led by Pashinyan and his assessments show that the matter is not only about border violation but contains deeper problems. Azerbaijan is trying to ensure not only favorable position for its forces, control over the water resources of the Lake but also to secure more leverage, pressure to use against Armenia in the ongoing negotiations.”
Azerbaijan is NATO’s outpost on the Caspian Sea. Its “one nation, two states” partner Turkey is NATO’s second-most powerful member both in terms of population and the size of its armed forces.
When Azerbaijan conducted large-scale war games in March – with 10,000 troops, 100 tanks and other armored vehicles, 200 missile and artillery installations and thirty aircraft – only four months after its 44-day war with Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia last year ended, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blandly dismissed the fact, claiming, “Azerbaijani military exercises do not pose risks to stability and security in the region [as] these exercises are of a planned nature, aimed at improving the combat training of troops and do not pose risks to stability and security in the region.”
In regard to the mutual defense provisions of the CSTO, Armenia shouldn’t expect much from its Russian ally, even though Moscow has troops in the country.
There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin. Pashinyan’s request for help under a 1997 mutual-defense pact with Russia marks a sharp escalation in the most serious crisis between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the war that killed thousands until Putin brokered a cease-fire in November. The U.S. has expressed concern over the dispute, while French President Emmanuel Macron demanded Azerbaijan “withdraw immediately” from Armenian territory after a phone talk with Pashinyan on Thursday.
Azerbaijani armed forces have crossed into Armenian territory. They must withdraw immediately. I say again to the Armenian people: France stands with you in solidarity and will continue to do so.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 13, 2021
Putin emphasized the importance of maintaining the cease-fire in a phone call with Pashinyan late Thursday and the Armenian leader didn’t ask for assistance, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier Friday.