Armenia is not considering quitting the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a senior official in Yerevan said on November 23, despite Yerevan’s decision not to attend a CSTO summit in Minsk on November 23.
Deputy Foreign Minister Mnatsakan Safarian also told reporters that Armenia also had no intention of raising the issue of the withdrawal of Russia’s military base in the northwestern Armenian town of Gyumri, where several thousand Russian troops are stationed.
“At the moment, there are no such topics on our agenda,” Safarian said.
Armenia drew criticism from Russia earlier this month after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said he would not attend the CSTO summit. Other Armenian officials have also declined to participate in events held by the CSTO, which also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
Armenia has previously opted out of CSTO maneuvers in Kyrgyzstan and ignored ministerial meetings of the CSTO, and its absence at the summit, which Russian President Vladimir Putin is attending, highlights a growing rift between Yerevan and Moscow.
Armenian authorities have also accused Russian peacekeepers deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020 of failing to stop Azerbaijan’s lightning offensive in September that ended three decades of rule by ethnic Armenians in the breakaway Azerbaijani region.
Moscow has rejected the accusations, arguing that its troops didn’t have a mandate to intervene and charging that Pashinian had effectively paved the way for the collapse of separatist rule in the region by previously acknowledging Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over it.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on November 23 that Yerevan’s decision not to attend the CSTO summit was not in the “long-term interests of the Armenian people” and chided Armenia for what she described as veiled efforts by Yerevan to change its foreign policy in favor of the West.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also lamented Armenia’s decision not to attend the summit but said that the Kremlin expected that Armenia “will continue its work within the framework of this organization.”
Summit host Alyaksandr Lukashenka was more outspoken, saying, “Some of our partners took steps and made statements that were provocative.”
The Belarusian strongman said complaints should be voiced “in an eye-to-eye conversation instead of dumping stuff into the media.” He added that it was “irresponsible and short-sighted” to create a “conflict situation” in the group to the benefit of the West.
Pashinian told the Armenian parliament earlier this month that the fundamental problem with the CSTO was that it had failed to legally fixate what its area of responsibility would be in case Armenian territory and its borders needed protection.
He and other Armenian officials have said that the CSTO’s failure to respond to the security challenges facing Armenia meant that “it is the CSTO that is quitting Armenia and not Armenia that is quitting the CSTO.”
Speaking in parliament on November 15, however, Pashinian refused to be drawn into the discussion of whether Armenia planned to formally quit the CSTO or speak about any security alternatives.
“We are not planning to announce a change in our policy in strategic terms as long as we haven’t made a decision to quit the CSTO,” Pashinian said.