Ongoing border tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan have led to scepticism about Armenia’s position within the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
A 3 July statement of CSTO’s Secretary-General Stanislav Zas, in which he called an apparent incursion by the Azerbaijani military onto the territory of the Republic of Armenia in the Gegharkunik and Syunik provinces a ‘border incident’ was met with harsh criticism in Armenia.
The head of the Standing Committee on Foreign Relations of Armenia Ruben Rubinyan commented on the statement, stating that it was ‘improper’ and that using the term ‘border incident’ was ‘strange’.
In a phone conversation with Stanislav Zas, the head of Armenia’s Security Council Armen Grigoryan stated that the situation over the Armenia-Azerbaijan border can not be described as an ‘incident’ and that the ‘actions of the Azerbaijani side are an obvious attempt to occupy part of Armenia’s sovereign territory՛.
Grigoryan had also offered to arrange a visit of the CSTO secretariat to Armenia to get acquainted with the situation over the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. In response to the offer, Zas stated that he is closely following the issue.
By contrast, the European Parliament, United States and France have called on Azerbaijan to withdraw its troops.
‘Influenced’ by the CSTO
On 6 July, fighting briefly erupted between Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers near the border. In an interview with Armenia’s Public Broadcaster on Tuesday, Armen Grigoryan stated that fighting was a ‘provocation’ by Azerbaijan that was ‘somewhat influenced by some statements made by the CSTO’.
Grigoryan called the statements made by the CSTO ‘unconstructive’ and stressed that Armenia and Russia are negotiating over deploying Russian border troops to Armenia’s Syunik and Gegharkunik regions to calm the ongoing tensions.
Since May, six Armenian soldiers have been taken captive by Azerbaijani forces and one has been killed.
[Read more: Six Armenian soldiers captured by Azerbaijani forces]
Despite the apparent frustration with the CSTO’s inactivity, Armenia’s dependence on Russia is growing as the country seeks more Russian military presence in the country, in particular, in the Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces.
Prior to the Pashinyan-Putin meeting in Moscow on Tuesday, local media outlets wrote about possible agreements between Armenia and Russia on deploying peacekeepers in Armenia’s border provinces.
Gegharkunik Governor Gnel Sanosyan stated that the Russian border guards are already in the province and waiting for the order to go to the border. Kremlin spokesperson Dimitri Peskov later denied the claim.
According to Armenian officials, both countries are also negotiating on expanding and moving part of the Russian military base in the western Armenian city of Gyumri to the country’s east. The base currently houses 5,000 troops.