As Azerbaijan Steps Up Advance on Syunik, Yerevan Turns to CSTO for ‘Rapid Response’

Azerbaijani forces have entered the Sev Lidj (Black Lake) region of Syunik
Azerbaijani forces have entered the Sev Lidj (Black Lake) region of Syunik

Azerbaijani forces have entered the Sev Lidj (Black Lake) region of Syunik

Azerbaijani forces continued their breach of Armenia’s border and on Thursday, according to Armenia’s Defense Ministry, they pushed their positions forward toward Vardenis in the Gegharkunik Province and Sisian that is located in the Syunik Province. With the standoff in its second day, the Armenian government has turned to the Collective Security Treaty Organization—the CSTO.

While there were no exchange of fire, the Azerbaijani soldiers have not left Armenia’s sovereign territory, with reports signaling that more than 250 Azerbaijani troops are currently camped out in Armenia, especially near the Sev Lidj (Black Lake) region. The breach of Armenia’s border began on Wednesday when Azerbaijani forces, under the guise of border demarcation efforts, advanced 3.5 kilometers into Syunik.

“In both instance the [Azerbaijani] efforts to advance have been stopped as a result of the activities of the Armed Forces of Armenia. The Armenian side has presented a demand to the Azerbaijani side to leave the territory immediately and return to their initial positions,” said Defense Ministry in a statement Thursday.

“The Defense Ministry of Armenia assesses that this operation led by Azerbaijan, which started on May 12 is an explicit provocation, and in order to avoid unpredictable developments, demands the armed forces of that country to immediately return to their initial positions and refrain from encroachments on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia,’’ added the Defense Ministry.

Following a meeting of Armenia’s National Security Council, the second in 24 hours, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called on the defense and foreign ministers to immediately begin consulting with the CSTO, of which Armenia is a member and Azerbaijan is not.

The CSTO rules stipulate that “in the event of threats to the safety, stability, territorial integrity and sovereignty of one or several member states or threat to international peace and safety, the member states shall immediately launch the mechanism of joint consultations for the purpose of coordinating their positions, develop and take measures for assistance to such ,member states for the purpose of eliminating the threats.”

Earlier on Thursday, CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas discussed the situation along Armenia’s border during separate telephone conversations with Armenia’s acting defense minister Vagharshak Harutyunyan and acting foreign minister Ara Aivazyan, following which the CSTO issued a statement saying that the body was closely monitoring the situation.

“The CSTO is closely following the developments in the border regions of Syunik province, and if necessary, actions will be taken in accordance with the Collective Security Treaty and the CSTO Charter,” the CSTO said in a statement on Thursday.

During a CSTO Council session on Thursday, Armenia’s permanent representative to the group, Viktor Biyagov briefed the body about Azerbaijan’s provocations along Armenia’s borders and the situation that has be created.

Biyagov said that the Azerbaijani provocation is a direct encroachment against CSTO-member Armenia’s sovereign territory and is a serious threat to regional security and stability, Armenia’s foreign ministry reported.

Biyagov stressed that “Azerbaijan will bear the entire responsibility for further escalating the situation in the event that it fails to pull back its troops as soon as possible within a reasonable timeframe,” the foreign ministry said.

During the Security Council session on Thursday, Pashinyan said Azerbaijan’s provocations can have broader military and political consequences, accusing Baku of provoking a military conflict.

“A rapid reaction by the CSTO is necessary to prevent future escalation and for protecting the territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia, its stability and sovereignty. And we take those measures as a CSTO member state seriously,’’ Pashinyan said.

“It is urgent to take all necessary measures to unconditionally protect the interests and security of the Republic of Armenia, the citizens of the Republic of Armenia,” President Armen Sarkissian said in a statement on Thursday, adding that the response must be “clear and resolute.”

“The Azerbaijani side bears all responsibility for further aggravating the situation and disrupting the already tense situation in the region,” added Sarkissian’s statement.

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