The confirmation of the CSTO zone of responsibility in the Republic of Armenia is of fundamental importance for us. PM Pashinyan at the session of the CSTO Collective Security Council
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The regular session of the CSTO Collective Security Council was held in Yerevan under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. First, the welcome and photo-shooting ceremonies of the leaders of the states took place, then the leaders of Armenia, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan discussed the issues included in the agenda in a narrow-format session.
At the beginning of the session, Prime Minister Pashinyan made a speech of welcome, in which he particularly said,
“Honorable Heads of State,
I welcome you at the regular session of the CSTO Collective Security Council in Yerevan. The presidency of the Republic of Armenia in the CSTO ends today. It was a very eventful period. We marked the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the CSTO.
Contrary to the jubilees, unfortunately, our mood is not festive at all. During the last two years, CSTO member country Armenia has been subjected to aggression by Azerbaijan at least three times.
The fact that Armenia's membership in the CSTO did not stop Azerbaijan from resorting to aggressive actions, and even more so, that until today we have not been able to make a decision regarding the CSTO's response to Azerbaijan's aggression against Armenia is saddening. These facts greatly damage the reputation of CSTO both inside and outside our country, and I consider this the main failure of Armenia's presidency in CSTO. I can say the same about the facts of the escalation of the situation on the border of our allies, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
At the same time, I must also mention our successful actions. I am talking about CSTO’s operative response to the request of the President of Kazakhstan, Mr. Tokayev, to support the restoration of law and order in their country in January of this year. In this case, we solved the problem overnight, which allowed Kazakhstan to avoid internal chaos.
Taking the opportunity, I would like to to congratulate Kassym-Jomart Kemelovich Tokayev on his re-election as the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Friends, we have a full agenda for today’s meeting.
I hope that we will be able to coordinate our allied approaches and achieve coordinated and collective partnership on topical issues.
I should also mention that Stanislav Vasilevich Zas is finishing his three-year term as CSTO Secretary- General. I would like to thank him for his conscientious work.
Since from the beginning of 2023, for the next 3 years, the duties of the CSTO Secretary General will be performed by the representative of Kazakhstan Imangali Nurgalievich Tasmagambetov, I think it would be reasonable if honorable Kassym-Jomart Tokayev introduces him to us.
I suggest that we immediately proceed to the substantive issues on the agenda and discuss the format of our session."
Then, the leaders of the CSTO member states delivered speeches. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in his speech,
Today we will summarize the results of Armenia's presidency in the CSTO and we will hear the priorities of the upcoming presidency of Belarus.
Our presidency lasted almost 14 months. This period coincided with major upheavals, both global and regional.
Unfortunately, all over the world and especially in our region, not only is there no reduction in the risk of conflicts, but also a continuous increase in tension is recorded, with obvious tendencies to accumulate even bigger and more comprehensive problems.
As you know, from September 13 to 14 of this year, the Republic of Armenia faced an unjustified and unprovoked aggression by Azerbaijan, which led not only to the occupation of some sovereign territories of Armenia, but also to losses among military personnel, as well as civilians, and significant destruction of civil infrastructure.
Azerbaijan's repeated aggression, and in particular the fact that we have not been able to make a decision regarding CSTO's response to the mentioned aggression, raises fundamental questions that are extremely important both for the CSTO and for the image of the organization in the eyes of the Armenian society.
The confirmation of the CSTO zone of responsibility in the Republic of Armenia is of fundamental importance for us. The existence of such a formulation may seem strange in itself, but after analyzing our recent discussions, we have come to the conclusion that this is extremely important.
Our position is as follows: according to the Alma-Ata Declaration of December 21, 1991, the CIS founding countries, as independent states, recognized each other's territorial integrity and the inviolability of existing borders. This means that the above-mentioned countries became independent with the administrative borders that existed between the republics during the years of the Soviet Union. In other words, the former administrative borders became state borders, and the territories of the above-mentioned countries were determined by these borders. It is with these borders that the Republic of Armenia became a member of the United Nations and the CSTO.
Since May 11, 2021, Azerbaijan used armed forces three times and occupied about 140 square kilometers of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. This happened on May 11, 2021, November 14, 2021 and September 13, 2022.
Thus, according to UN Resolution No. 3314 of December 14, 1974, the mentioned actions of Azerbaijan are considered aggression.
What do we expect from the CSTO in this regard? The recording of this fact in the form of a clearly formulated political assessment. Refraining from such an assessment, saying that there is no border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, means claiming that there is no zone of responsibility of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and if there is no zone of responsibility, then there is no organization. At least, this is how it can be interpreted.
These nuances are also important because they play a decisive role in the future collective actions. In this context, I would like to respond to the comments according to which Armenia is trying to push the CSTO countries into a war with Azerbaijan. This is a simple speculation, because Armenia cannot be interested in war, at least only because it has suffered enough from wars, including the one in September of this year.
The political assessment of the above events is necessary first of all from a moral point of view, because it should be a logical manifestation of allied relations. Of course, this is also important from the point of view of restoring the territorial integrity of our country, but this desire in itself does not mean military intervention. According to Article 3 of the CSTO Charter, priority is given to political measures when it comes to collectively protecting the territorial integrity of the member states.
It is for this very reason that Armenia proposes to speed up the necessary political and diplomatic work with the Azerbaijani side, based on the decision of the CSTO Collective Security Council, aimed at the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Azerbaijani troops from the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia to their initial positions of May 11, 2021.
Such a position is important not only for restoring the territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia, but also for restraining Azerbaijan from further aggressive actions against our country. The fact that the risk of a renewed Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia's territorial integrity still remains, CSTO Secretary-General Stanislav Vasilievich Zas announced at the extraordinary session of the CSTO Collective Security Council on October 28 of this year. In these conditions, the lack of a clear political assessment of the situation and failure to make the above-mentioned decision may mean not only CSTO's refusal to implement alliance obligations, but also be interpreted by Azerbaijan as CSTO's green light for further aggression against Armenia.
And this contradicts not only the letter, but also the spirit and nature of the fundamental documents of the CSTO. Therefore, based on this, dear colleagues, at this moment I think that the draft "On the declaration of the CSTO Collective Security Council and joint measures to provide assistance to the Republic of Armenia" presented for signing has not been sufficiently finalized, and in this form, with all due respect, I am not ready to sign these documents.
Dear Heads of State,
In the recent period quite a lot of comments have appeared regarding the history of the Nagorno Karabakh problem. However, I do not want to touch on the genre of historical excursion, not because I have nothing to say about it, but because today the analysis of the current situation is more important.
On November 9, 2020, with the efforts of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, the trilateral declaration of the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan was adopted, which was followed by many documents, statements, comments on the need to observe all points of the triplateral declaration of November 9, 2020.
This obviously means that not all points of the trilateral declaration are being observed, but no one speaks about who and which side is not fulfilling those points and agreements.
Today I will try to summarize this issue, because I have to state that there has never been a chance to talk about this in a manner covering all the aspects, so to speak.
Point 1 of the trilateral declaration states: "A complete cease-fire and cessation of all military operations in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone is announced from November 10, 2020, 00:00 Moscow time, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, hereinafter referred to as the Parties, stop at their positions.
Point 3 of the same declaration states: "A peacekeeping force of the Russian Federation is stationed along the contact line and along the Lachin Corridor in Nagorno-Karabakh, numbering 1,960 soldiers with firearms, 90 armored personnel carriers, 380 units of automobiles and special equipment."
These points clearly define that there is Nagorno Karabakh, it exists, there is a line of contact in NK, there is a Lachin Corridor. A peacekeeping force is deployed along the Line of Contact and Lachin Corridor, forming a peacekeeping zone of responsibility, and the parties remain in their positions, with the exception in Kelbajar, Aghdam and Lachin regions, in accordance with points 2 and 6 of the declaration.
Violating these points, Azerbaijan declares that Nagorno-Karabakh does not exist, contrary to the document signed by the President of Azerbaijan.
Violating the ceasefire and the cessation of all military operations, as well as the above-mentioned agreement that the parties should stop at their positions, already in 2020 Azerbaijan illegally occupied Khtsaberd and Hin Tagher settlements of Nagorno Karabakh, as well as their adjacent territories.
Azerbaijan carried out a similar occupation in in March, 2022, breaking the line of contact and invading the zone of responsibility of the peacekeeping forces of the Russian Federation in Nagorno-Karabakh, in the direction of Parukh village. Azerbaijan violates the ceasefire regime almost every day, including on the contact line.
It should be noted that during the occupation of Khtsaberd village in the presence of Russian peacekeepers, Azerbaijan captured 66 Armenian soldiers, which also happened in the presence of Russian peacekeepers. In other words, both of these actions took place in the presence of Russian peacekeepers.
Violating point 8 of the declaration of November 9, 2020, which states: “Exchange of prisoners of war, hostages and other detained persons, as well as bodies of the dead should be carried out", Azerbaijan has not returned at least 33 prisoners of war, hostages and other detained persons to Armenia so far.
Point 6 of the declaration of November 9, 2020 states: "The Lachin Corridor (5 km wide), which will ensure the connection of Nagorno Karabakh with Armenia and bypass the city of Shushi at the same time, remains under the control of the peacekeeping troops of the Russian Federation." Until now, the Lachin Corridor is not completely under the control of the Russian peacekeeping troops, and the Azerbaijani army maintains several positions in the Lachin Corridor.
Point 7 of the declaration of November 9, 2020 states: "Internally displaced persons and refugees return to the Nagorno-Karabakh territory and surrounding regions under the supervision of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees." In violation of this point, Azerbaijan obstructs the entry of representatives of the United Nations, in particular, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, into Nagorno-Karabakh.
Point 9 of the declaration of November 9, 2020 states: "All economic and transport communications in the region should be unblocked. The Republic of Armenia guarantees the safety of transport communication between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan in order to organize the smooth movement of citizens, vehicles and cargo in both directions. Control over the transport communication is carried out by the Border Service of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.
With the agreement between the Parties, the construction of new transport links connecting the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan with the western regions of Azerbaijan will be ensured."
The president of Azerbaijan constantly insists that some type of corridor should be created through the territory of Armenia and accuses Armenia of not fulfilling the above-mentioned point. I specifically quoted paragraph 9 of the trilateral declaration to show the obvious: there is no word "corridor" there, nothing is said about a corridor.
This paragraph, as you saw, refers to the unblocking of all economic and transport communications in the region, and it is only in this context that the transport link between the western regions of Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic is mentioned, and this section is, accordingly, part of the process of unblocking transport and economic communications in the region.
The trilateral statement of January 11, 2021 also makes this obvious, which is the clarification of point 9 of the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020, it is a document clarifying the meaning of this paragraph.
Accordingly, it should be noted that the accusations against Armenia regarding the violation of point 9 of the declaration of November 9, 2020 are completely groundless. In this matter, Armenia has only one obligation, to provide a transport connection between the western regions of Azerbaijan and the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan, while no specific route is mentioned in the November 9 declaration or any other statement.
The Republic of Armenia has always been ready and is still ready to provide such communication, and for this purpose, the draft decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia on establishing checkpoints on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border has been put into circulation, and as a result of this decision, Azerbaijan can get a connection with the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan through the roads of Armenia. This decision is not made only for one reason: Azerbaijan does not want this route.
This means that Armenia fully fulfills its obligation, while Azerbaijan does not want to take the opportunity. At the same time, such refusal is completely incomprehensible. If Azerbaijan really wants peace and aims to achieve peace, as it claims, then let's open those checkpoints, those roads, let's create opportunities for people. It is clear that at first they will be confused, they will think, but when they are convinced of the sincerity of the intentions, then both the citizens of Armenia and the citizens of Azerbaijan will definitely start using this new opportunity of transportation, I am sure that the citizens of Russia and other countries will also.
As for the construction of new roads, the Republic of Armenia has no such obligations according to the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020 or any other statement or document. Point 9 of the declaration provides for such a possibility in case of a consent between the Parties. And the Republic of Armenia is ready to give its consent. And the agreement did not take place only for one reason: Azerbaijan continues its aggressive rhetoric and actions contrary to the reached agreements and signed statements. Let me be specific: it is the rhetoric about the corridor, you know about it. Unfortunately, some of our partners are also somehow misled or subjected to provokation, and sometimes they agree to accept documents where such a wording is used.
One more nuance: point 9 states that the control over transport communication is carried out by the the Border Service of the Federal Security Service of Russia. This point is further clarified in the Presidential Decree No. 695 of the Russian Federation of November 10, 2020 "On measures aimed at maintaining peace in Nagorno-Karabakh", paragraph 3 of which states: I quote: "The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation controls the transport communication in the Republic of Armenia between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan in both directions in order to ensure the unimpeded movement of citizens, vehicles and goods."
In other words, there is no and cannot be a question about control over our sovereign territory and the alienation of any of our sovereign functions, it is about control over the implementation of agreements, by the way, when we say agreement, we must understand the Declaration, because, naturally, there can be no other agreements. And it is only this function that can be performed by the FSB Border Service of the Russian Federation. And as I understood, we talked about it on the way, we have a common approach to this issue.
The president of Azerbaijan also accuses Armenia of the fact that our army is in Nagorno-Karabakh. I would like to emphasize once again that there is no Armenian army in Nagorno Karabakh, there is a Nagorno Karabakh Defense Army. In my understanding, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh have an army only and only because of the danger of being subjected to genocide.
At the same time, during the trilateral meeting held in Sochi on October 31, I presented the proposal of the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities on this topic: to create a demilitarized zone around Nagorno-Karabakh with international guarantees, as a result of which Nagorno-Karabakh may not need a defense army of such a scale. I think this proposal remains valid.
Dear Heads of State,
This is a small part of the accumulated topics that I wanted to share with you. But I don't want to trespass upon the time and at this moment I want to thank you for your attention."
Then, in the expanded-format session, the chairmanship of the CSTO was officially transferred from Armenia to Belarus. The head of that country Alexander Lukashenko presented the priorities of Belarus during the upcoming presidency, after which the agreed documents were submitted for signing. Prime Minister Pashinyan noted that, as he already said in his speech, two of the documents were not signed. They are planned to be finalized and submitted for signing.