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Hosting Putin, Armenian leader complains of lack of help from Russian-led alliance

Hosting Putin, Armenian leader complains of lack of help from Russian-led alliance

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they attend the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in Yerevan, Armenia, on Nov 23, 2022. (Photo: Hayk Baghdasaryan/Photolure via REUTERS)

LONDON: Armenia's leader vented his frustration on Wednesday (Nov 23) at the failure of a Russian-led security alliance to come to his country's aid in the face of what he called aggression by Azerbaijan.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called into question the effectiveness of the six-nation Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in pointed opening remarks to a summit as Russian President Vladimir Putin looked on.

Russia, the dominant player in the CSTO, has long been the main power broker in the south Caucasus, bordering Turkey and Iran, where Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two major wars since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

But as Russia struggles in its nine-month-old war in Ukraine, it risks losing influence in parts of the former Soviet Union that it has long seen as its sphere of influence.

Fighting flared in September between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the two sides said more than 200 soldiers had been killed.

"It is depressing that Armenia's membership in the CSTO did not deter Azerbaijan from aggressive actions," Pashinyan told the meeting in the Armenian capital, Yerevan.

"Right up to today we have not managed to reach a decision on a CSTO response to Azerbaijan’s aggression against Armenia. These facts do grave harm to the image of the CSTO both inside our country and outside its borders, and I consider this the main failure of Armenia’s chairmanship of the CSTO."

Armenia requested assistance from the organisation in September, but received only a promise to send observers. Pashinyan contrasted that with the alliance's rapid decision in January to send troops to CSTO member Kazakhstan to help President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev survive a wave of unrest.

Armenia and Azerbaijan blamed each other for the flare-up, the worst since 2020, when more than 6,000 were killed in a 44-day war in which Azerbaijan scored major territorial victories.

The two countries have been wrangling for decades over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but largely controlled by the majority ethnic Armenian population, with support from Yerevan.

In his own remarks, Putin acknowledged some unspecified "problems" facing the CSTO, and said more effort was needed to bring about peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

That would only be possible if they could implement agreements on defining their borders, unblocking transport and communications links and solving humanitarian problems, he said.

After the meeting, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia continued to play an important role in those efforts:

"No one is trying to pin the signing of such a complex treaty to specific dates. The main thing is that it be signed and that it be a stable and viable document."

Russia sent almost 2,000 peacekeeping troops under a 2020 ceasefire deal but has so far been unable to help resolve the outstanding issues, including the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh and the ethnic Armenians who live there.

Azerbaijan enjoys backing from Turkey and is not a member of the CSTO, which comprises Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as Russia and Armenia.

Source: Reuters/ec
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