By Mark Dovich
The Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-led military alliance, has said it will convene a special session Friday to discuss possible steps to assist Armenia following Azerbaijan’s unprecedented attack last month.DONATE
The CSTO said in a statement Thursday that the session would be dedicated to discussing the findings of senior alliance officials who visited Armenia in the aftermath of Azerbaijan’s attack, adding that CSTO members are “expected to consider joint measures to provide assistance to Armenia.”
At a question-and-answer session at parliament Wednesday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told lawmakers Wednesday that Armenia plans to initiate a special CSTO session “as soon as possible.”
Armenia currently holds the alliance’s rotating chair. Fellow post-Soviet countries Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan are also members.
On the first day of Azerbaijan’s assault last month on three dozen Armenian municipalities, Pashinyan formally appealed to the CSTO for help, but the alliance pointedly declined to send military assistance to Armenia, despite treaty obligations.
The CSTO then dispatched senior officials to Armenia to compile a report on the situation.
TASS has previously reported that sending a CSTO mission to the region was among the recommendations included in the report put forward by the officials after their visit.
In a potentially significant development, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this month that the CSTO stands “ready” to deploy observers to the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.
“The only thing required is the decision of the (CSTO) council, which must be convened by the organization’s chair,” Lavrov told his Armenian counterpart, Ararat Mirzoyan. “As soon as you have free time, we will be ready to formally approve this mission, and it can get to work.”
The CSTO’s so far lackluster response to Azerbaijan’s attack has prompted unusually harsh criticism of the alliance in Armenia, with Armen Grigoryan, the influential head of Armenia’s Security Council, telling Radio Azatutyun days after the attack that Armenia’s “expectations have not been met.”
Referring to the CSTO’s swift and decisive response to mass civil unrest that shook fellow alliance member Kazakhstan in January, Grigoryan added: “There was such a hope (that the CSTO would react similarly in Armenia), and naturally, that hope has been dashed.”
The CSTO’s move to convene a special session comes just days before a planned summit in the Russian city of Sochi, where Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev for another round of talks.
It also comes days after Russian lawmaker Konstantin Zatulin and RT chief Margarita Simonyan said they had been banned from entering Armenia, threatening to raise tensions between Armenia and Russia, the region’s main security guarantor.
A spokesperson for Armenia’s parliament has confirmed Zatulin’s ban to Radio Azatutyun, while Armenia’s National Security Service has told CivilNet it could neither confirm nor deny the news of Simonyan’s ban.
Commenting on the apparent bans, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Thursday that Russia “immediately appealed to the Armenian side through diplomatic channels for official confirmation and clarification.”
“In the case that this information is confirmed, it is difficult to qualify this as a friendly step that corresponds to the allied nature of our relations,” Zakharova was quoted by TASS as saying. “When we receive an official answer, then we will determine both further actions and a reaction.”