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Lukashenka urges Armenia to ‘seriously consider’ not leaving the CSTO

15 November 2023
Niklol Pashinyan at the 2022 CSTO summit. Official photo.

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has urged Armenia to ‘seriously consider’ its options before taking steps which may see Armenia leave the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).

On Tuesday, Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, announced that he would not be taking part in the CSTO summit scheduled to be held in Minsk on 23 November.

This came in a telephone call with Belarus’s President Lukashenka, in which Pashinyan reportedly expressed his hope that the CSTO ‘would understand the decision’.

Lukashenka then reportedly urged Pashinyan not to make ‘hasty decisions’ about Armenia’s status in the Russia-led security bloc.

‘The president suggested that the PM of Armenia should not hurry, should not make hasty decisions, but should seriously think about the next steps, which may be aimed at disintegration’, stated Lukashenka’s press secretary, Natalya Eismont.

Following Pashinyan’s announcement, Moscow expressed its ‘regret’, with Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov telling reporters that Russia understands that ‘each head of government or head of state may have his own events in his work schedule, their own circumstances’.

‘But we can only express regret because such meetings are a very good reason for exchanging opinions; to clarify positions’.

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Armenia snubs the CSTO again

On Wednesday, Pashinyan suggested that he was not taking part in the CSTO summit, because the bloc did not recognise Armenia’s borders.

He was referring to a statement by Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi, who stated that since the borders between Azerbaijan and Armenia were not demarcated, it would be difficult to determine where there were ‘any violation’ on the Armenia–Azerbaijan border.

‘Simply participating silently under those conditions’, he said, could bring into question Armenia’s ‘territorial integrity and sovereignty’.

‘We also make such decisions in order to give ourselves and CSTO time to think.’

Pashinyan also explained that Armenia was purchasing weapons from the West and elsewhere ‘because our partners in the security sector, including for objective reasons, are unable to sell us weapons and ammunition’. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the country has struggled to procure the weapons needed to maintain its war.

‘We tell them very well, please don’t be upset, but we have to look for other security partners. We are looking for and finding these partners, we are trying to sign contracts, get some weapons, military equipment. That is our policy’.

On Tuesday, Armenia Security Council Secretary, Armen Grigoryan, stated that Armenia has declined to attend CSTO meetings because of the security bloc’s inaction in the face of Azerbaijani attacks on Armenian territory.

Article 4 of the CSTO charter stipulates that members of the bloc are obliged to mutually defend each other against external threats or attacks.

Grigoryan said that Armenia had ‘many questions’ to the CSTO, hinging its participation in future meetings on whether it will receive answers.

​​’Until now, we do not have the answer to these questions, and this is also the reason why we are not participating in the session of the CSTO Collective Security Council’, said Grigoryan.

Earlier on Tuesday, Arman Yeghoyan, an MP from the ruling Civil Contract party and the chair of the European Integration Commission, noted in a briefing that while Armenia is not currently considering leaving the bloc, the government has repeatedly expressed its ‘dissatisfaction’ with the CSTO.

‘And here you are surprised that we do not participate?’ said Yeghoyan. 

Armenia’s relations with Russia have been deteriorating since the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020, with Yerevan seemingly pushing itself away from the Moscow-led CSTO and Commonwealth of Independent State in favour of closer security ties with the West.

[Read more: Armenia steps up military ties with West as Russia relations tumble]

Pashinyan and other high-ranking officials have repeatedly declined to participate in CSTO and CIS sessions. Armenia refused to host joint CSTO peacekeeping exercises and sat out two CSTO drills in autumn. Yerevan also refused to send a representative to serve as the CSTO’s deputy secretary general in March.