YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Nearly two weeks after his government moved to replace the Armenian secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan telephoned Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Tuesday to discuss activities of the Russian-led defense alliance.
“The interlocutors discussed topical issues of bilateral and multilateral relations, including those related to the CSTO’s activities,” Pashinyan’s press office said in a short statement. It gave no details.
Nazarbayev’s press service likewise said the two leaders spoke about Armenia’s and Kazakhstan’s “interaction within the framework” of the CSTO and the Eurasian Economic Union, another Russian-led bloc comprising their countries. It too did not elaborate.
The phone call followed a rare diplomatic dispute between Armenia and Russia resulting from Armenian authorities’ decision to prosecute the current CSTO secretary general, Yuri Khachaturov, on controversial coup charges stemming from the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan. Khachaturov was Armenia’s deputy defense minister at the time.
On July 27, Armenia’s Special Investigative (SIS) service asked a Yerevan court to allow it to arrest Khachaturov as well as former President Robert Kocharian. The court remanded the ex-president in pre-trial custody but granted bail to Khachaturov.
The separate rulings were handed down several hours after a phone conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. Lavrov last week publicly denounced the prosecutions of the former Armenian officials as politically motivated. A Kremlin official told the Moscow daily “Kommersant” afterwards that Yerevan’s decision to prosecute Khachaturov dealt a “colossal blow to the image” of the CSTO.
Despite the serious accusations leveled against him, Khachaturov was allowed to return to Moscow and resume its duties as CSTO secretary general on August 4.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said on July 28 that it has formally asked the other CSTO members to “start a process of replacing the secretary general.” Moscow dismissed the move as “unprofessional,” saying that Yerevan must formally “recall” Khachaturov before asking the other CSTO states to pick his replacement.
Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan said late last week that Armenia should be able to name another head of the alliance of six former Soviet republics. It remains to be seen whether Moscow will agree to that.
The CSTO member states agreed in 2015 that their representatives will take turns to run the organization on a rotating basis. They appointed Khachaturov as secretary general in April 2017 after almost two years of delay reportedly resulting from Kazakhstan’s and Belarus’s reluctance to have an Armenian hold the position because of their warm ties with Azerbaijan. The two nations dropped their objections after pressure from Russia, according to Russian media reports.
Incidentally, Pashinyan also had a phone conversation with Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko on July 28. Neither Belarusian nor Kazakh officials have made public statements on Khachaturov’s prosecution so far.