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

By Mark Trevelyan

LONDON (Reuters) – Armenia’s leader expressed his frustration on Wednesday at the failure of the Russia-led security alliance to help his country in the face of what he said was aggression from Azerbaijan.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan questioned the effectiveness of the six-nation Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in pointed opening remarks at the 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 region, 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 fights its nine-month war in Ukraine, it risks losing influence in parts of the former Soviet Union it has long considered its sphere of influence.

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Fighting flared up in September between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with both sides saying more than 200 soldiers had been killed.

“It is depressing that Armenia’s membership in the CSTO has not deterred Azerbaijan from aggressive actions,” Pashinyan said at a meeting in the Armenian capital, Yerevan.

“Until today, we have not been able to make a decision on the CSTO’s response to Azerbaijan’s aggression against Armenia. These facts seriously harm the image of the CSTO both inside our country and outside its borders, and I consider this a major failure. of the Armenian chairmanship of the CSTO”.

Armenia sent a direct request for help from the organization in September, which was met only with a promise to send observers. Pashinyan contrasted that with the alliance’s snap decision in January to send troops to another member state, Kazakhstan, to help President Kassim-Jomart Tokayev survive a wave of unrest.

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Armenia and Azerbaijan blame each other for the flare-up, the worst eruption of hostilities since 2020, when more than 6,000 were killed in a 44-day war in which Azerbaijan made a series of major territorial victories.

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

In his own remarks at the summit, Putin acknowledged some “problems” facing the CSTO, which he did not specify, and said more efforts were needed to reach a peace deal between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

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That would only be possible if they could implement agreements to define their borders, unblock transport and communication links and solve humanitarian problems, he said.

Russia has sent 1,960 peacekeepers to the area under a 2020 ceasefire agreement, but has made little apparent progress in getting the two sides to resolve outstanding issues, including the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh and the ethnic Armenians who live there.

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

(Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Nick McPhee)

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