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Armenia to leave Russia-led security alliance, PM says, as rift with Moscow deepens

WorldArmenia to leave Russia-led security alliance, PM says, as rift with Moscow deepens

Armenia will leave a Russia-led security bloc, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan confirmed for the first time, accusing members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation of having planned a war against his country with Azerbaijan.

Pashinyan, who has tried to cultivate closer ties with the United States and European Union, said in March that Armenia, traditionally a close Russian ally, would leave the CSTO unless the security bloc detailed its commitment to uphold his country’s security in a satisfactory way.

Pashinyan’s comments to parliamentarians – reported by the Armenpress news agency on Wednesday – suggest he feels he has not received such a commitment and is resolved to quit the CSTO.

“We will leave. We will decide when to exit … Don’t worry, we won’t return,” said Pashinyan, an ex-journalist who came to power in 2018 on the back of street protests that swept away Russia-friendly politicians.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in May. Photo: Sputnik via AP

The CSTO, headquartered in Moscow, also includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Belarus. It had said it was waiting for Yerevan to clarify its stance.

Pashinyan is under pressure from protesters unhappy about what they say are unacceptable land concessions made to try to secure an elusive peace deal with Azerbaijan, which Pashinyan said on Wednesday was close to completion despite a remaining sticking point.

Ties between Russia and Armenia, host to various Russian military facilities, have become increasingly rancorous since Azerbaijan retook its breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in September last year by force despite the presence there of Russian peacekeepers.

The CSTO did not intervene and Azerbaijan’s military action prompted a mass exodus of the region’s more than 100,000 ethnic Armenian population to Armenia.

Pashinyan has since made a series of statements voicing his disenchantment with the CSTO and Russia, saying he feels his South Caucasus country can no longer rely on Moscow to guarantee its security.

He has also accused at least two unnamed CSTO members of apparent collusion with Azerbaijan over a 44-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 2020 and has asked some Russian personnel stationed in Armenia to leave.

“It turned out that the members of the (CSTO) alliance are not fulfilling their contractual obligations, but were planning a war against us with Azerbaijan,” Armenpress quoted Pashinyan as saying on Wednesday.

Russian peacekeeping troops who were deployed in Karabakh after that 44-day conflict completed their full withdrawal on Wednesday, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said.

The Russian foreign ministry said in March it was alarmed by the way Armenia’s political leadership was making public statements about the CSTO, which it said it believed were best made within the confines of the CSTO.

Armenia said in February it would not attend CSTO meetings and that it had no permanent representation at the bloc under a “de facto freeze” of its membership.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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