Armenia Appeals to CSTO to Resolve Recent Border Dispute
May 26, 2021
On May 14, Armenia’s acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan appealed to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to hold consultations about a border dispute with Azerbaijan by citing article 2 of the CSTO’s founding treaty, which states that “in case of menace to safety, stability, territorial integrity and sovereignty of one or several Member States or menace to international peace and safety of the Member States” the CSTO shall immediately launch the mechanism of joint consultations in order to coordinate measures and solutions to eliminate the threat. While the CSTO includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, it does not include Azerbaijan, meaning that Azerbaijan could not have appealed to the CSTO to help mediate the issue. Yerevan accused Azerbaijani troops of crossing over the border in three locations on May 12, including a 3.5km (2.2mi) advance into Syunik Province. Baku claims that its forces did not cross into Armenia but only took up positions on the Azerbaijani side that were previously inaccessible due to winter weather conditions. Azerbaijan also suggested that the Armenian leadership intended to use these accusations for political purposes in the snap parliamentary elections scheduled for June 20. Although Armenian and Azerbaijani military officials met along the border with representatives of the Russian peacekeeping troops in the region, no official agreements resulted.
International leaders have responded to Armenia’s accusations. In a call with Pashinyan, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized the need for a “strict observance” of the ceasefire agreement and reaffirmed Moscow’s role as a dedicated mediator to ensure regional stability. French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on his official Facebook page that Armenian territory had been invaded by Azerbaijani forces and called for their immediate withdrawal after a phone call with Pashinyan. White House national-security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke separately with Prime Minister Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. According to a statement by National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne, Sullivan stressed that “military movements near un-demarcated borders are irresponsible and provocative” and emphasized the necessity of conducting formal discussion to demarcate their borders. He also welcomed both leader’s commitment to a peaceful resolution and reiterated the United States’ commitment as Minsk Group co-chair to regional reconciliation through bilateral engagement..
On May 19, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Moscow had proposed forming a joint Armenian-Azerbaijani border commission with Russia serving as a “consultant” or “mediator” in a CSTO meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Secretary of the Armenian Security Council Armen Gregoryan confirmed Russia’s proposal; he added that the alleged Azerbaijani troops who crossed into Armenian-controlled territory would need to withdraw before any discussions could occur.
Putin spoke individually with Aliyev and Pashinyan to urge de-escalation of the border situation. In his call with Aliyev, as the Kremlin reports, he said that the Russian side would continue to mediate and provide assistance in achieving an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan for the delimitation and demarcation of their borders. The Kremlin also stated that Putin and Pashinyan both showed interest in finding the earliest solution to the disagreement through negotiations. However, that same day, the Armenian Defense Ministry stated that if a negotiated settlement could not be agreed upon “within a reasonable time frame,” Yerevan would resort to the use of force to resolve the issue.
If such accusations are true, working through bilateral and multilateral channels such as the CSTO with Russia as the mediator could be successful in de-escalating the situation, especially since Russian peacekeeping forces are already stationed in the region. Regardless of the authenticity of these accusations, they serve to bolster nationalism ahead of Armenia’s June 20 snap elections. Pashinyan, who failed to receive enough votes to be elected as Prime Minister on May 10, could attempt to use claims of Azerbaijani incursion into Armenian territory to stoke nationalism and support as he continues to be criticized by the Armenian opposition for his perceived failures in the Second Nagorno Karabakh War.