“The threat of escalation along Armenia’s border and in Nagorno-Karabakh is very high now” – Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
Today PM Pashinyan held a press conference in which he not only reported on fears of a renewed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also signalled to a growing divide in the CSTO alliance, and went as far to say Azerbaijan is preparing the Armenians of Artsakh for “ethnic-cleansing” with their blockade of the Lachin/Berdzor corridor.
The blockade of the Berdzor corridor, the only road which connects Armenia proper and the breakaway Republic of Artsakh, has been blockaded by Azerbaijan since December 12th in what Pashinyan says is “preparation for ethnic cleansing of Armenians”. The blockade has led to widespread shortages of many essentials, including medicines and certain foods.
The blockade has seen widespread international condemnation, and last month the World Court ordered Azerbaijan to open the corridor in a binding resolution (though the resolution is binding, the World Court has no means of enforcement). The area in which the blockade is taking place is monitored by Russian peacekeepers, and their failure to stop the blockade has been subject to criticism. Pashinyan highlighted Armenia’s frustration with this both in todays press conference, as well as a phone call he’s held yesterday with President Putin.
“In a phone conversation with Putin yesterday, I spoke of a possible escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh and said that there are problems in the zone where Russian peacekeepers are responsible”.
However it was not just issues with the peacekeepers that Pashinyan raised. In September of 2022 Azerbaijan launched a series of attacks on Armenia’s border across 3 days, which resulted in hundreds killed on both sides, and Azerbaijan occupying a substantial amount of Armenia’s sovereign territory. The attacks failed to see a collective response from the CSTO, who has a provision similar to that of NATO’s article 5 that states an attack against one is an attack against all, that they are obligated to respond to.
Repeated Russian security failures have resulted in the CSTO growing increasingly unpopular in Armenia. Though the government certainly has no plans to withdraw from the CSTO, it had earlier this year rejected the rotational role of deputy secretary-general within the CSTO, cancelled a CSTO military exercise planned to be held in Armenia, and has yet to name its representative to the alliance.
“It is not that Armenia is leaving the CSTO, the CSTO is leaving Armenia, which is of a great concern to us” -PM Pashinyan.
Below is an excerpt from his initial speech, highlighting many of the problems Pashinyan sees with Armenia’s security.
“The deepening geopolitical instability, uncertainties and tensions becoming evident in the spheres of world order and international security further aggravate the threats to the external security of the Republic of Armenia.
Another aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan against the Republic of Armenia on September 13, 2022, the ongoing occupation of the sovereign territories of Armenia, the constant threat of new aggression, the unresolved state of the Nagorno Karabakh issue, the incursions of the Azerbaijani military into the area of responsibility of the Russian Federation peacekeeping troops in Nagorno Karabakh, the illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the suspensions of natural gas and electric supplies to Nagorno Karabakh and the resulting humanitarian, energy and environmental crises in Nagorno Karabakh have prevented the Armenian government from fully focusing on the implementation of development agendas.”