Meeting with CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Stanislav Zas on 1 November to discuss the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The head of state spoke frankly on this and other issues related to the situation in the CSTO, including Belarus' position on the matter.

“This conflict [between Armenia and Azerbaijan] must be settled. God forbid we let the conflict on the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan flare up. This is unacceptable. We must put an end to this. That is not good that we cannot stop these conflicts in the CSTO. We should discuss these issues very seriously at the next session of the CSTO,” the Belarusian leader said.

According to him, Belarus has initiated a number of discussions within the CSTO, including those related to the media, analysis and crisis response. “There are a lot of issues. We need to act in order to avoid being called a paper tiger or something else. There are probably some who do not want to work. We need to work with those who want to make the CSTO a strong political and military organization. This is the position of Belarus. We are all for it. But we are against playing games and using the CSTO as a tool to settle some internal political problems. Everyone has them, but that is not why we have set up the CSTO,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Ahead of the next CSTO summit scheduled for the second half of November, the President showed interest in the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. “After all, you have been there yourself, you have seen what is happening there. The chief of the Joint Staff has also worked there. These are specialists after all. When it was suggested to send a CSTO mission there, I thought: do we have anyone better than Zas here, in Belarus? Can they do it better? I am saying this not because I want to praise you. You are involved in this process, you see what is happening there. This means you need to observe and report. Why should we send any more observers from Belarus, Russia and others?” said the head of state.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Russia has already become a mediator in resolving the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and that is enough: “The war is over. It is clear how it ended. The parties decided that they need a mediator. This is a normal practice. Of course, it is Russia. They have turned to Russia. Russia has deployed hundreds of its people there. We remember how the planes flew and that Russian border guards, as Putin said, were on all sections of the border with Turkey, Iran, and between Armenia and Azerbaijan and so on. What else do they need? Let them work in this direction. I said that there was a certain game there. I understand what kind of game it is, and why the European Union has been dragged into it, and why they are trying to drag the OSCE into it. It is clear why this is done. What will they do there if there is already a mediator there? They also need to drag the CSTO into it. As if they have nothing else to do.”

The President of Belarus explained why his response to the matter was so harsh and what the position of Belarus was based on. “When we were presiding in the CSTO, I looked into the matter. I went to Ilham [Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev] to talk to him then. We had a friendly talk. I asked him in a joking manner then: “Ilham Geydarovich, you must help Armenia if you come to an agreement.” We were talking about five and a half or six districts - Azerbaijani districts, which were seized by Armenians, as they claimed. Armenia admitted that ‘it was not our land, it is Azerbaijan's'. Except for Karabakh. Then give it back! If then, when I suggested it, those areas had been returned, there would have been no war. Ilham would not have been motivated to start this war. You asked them to give the districts back, and they did. It would have been the status of Karabakh that had been left undecided. They could have been working on it in a calm mode. But neither Serzh Sargsyan nor Nikol Pashinian agreed. I raised this issue twice over the time,” the Belarusian leader shared the details.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also said that back then he offered Ilham Aliyev to think about investing in Armenia in case of the conflict settlement to finally reconcile and demonstrate it to the people of the two countries. “I suggested that Azerbaijan come to an agreement with Armenia, help Armenia in some way so that people could see that you have reconciled, made peace and so on, (oil was really expensive then.) ‘How much could you invest in Armenia?' I asked. At least $5 billion, he said. Back then, they were building pipelines. They went around Armenia. Ilham wanted gas and oil pipelines to go through Armenia. He said then: ‘Why should I go around to Georgia? Armenia is a better route. That will be profitable for us.' And further to Turkiye. It was really profitable,” said the President of Belarus.

“No, it never came to pass. They cornered the President of Azerbaijan. He was left with no other choice but use of force. This could not be delayed any longer. More than a million refugees created tension. Being an experienced politician, I understand this. There is no room for games now? Today if they have agreed, they must finally reconcile. There is no need to make up things. You have been there. I have been told that they are dividing the border somewhere in the mountains. They need to reach a agreement! Nakhichevan, in order to have a free passage. It seems that they have reached an agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh. For the time being. Russia is ensuring this process there. Why do they have to kill each other now? Almost 300 people have been killed and they are still engaged in discussions. They must calm down and reach an agreement. That is where my position comes from. It comes from the past, from more than ten years ago. That is why I react so harshly on the matter,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Before his appointment as CSTO secretary general, Stanislav Zas, the then State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus, supervised cooperation with Azerbaijan and often visited the country. “I talked to them many times. I saw that the country was actively preparing for a forced resolution of the conflict. I told them that the issue had to be resolved through negotiations. The answer was simple: “Stanislav Vasilyevich, we have been trying to reach an agreement for 30 years now. How much longer can we negotiate?” The situation was going the way you were talking about. Unfortunately, that was how it turned out. They could not resolve the issue peacefully,” the CSTO secretary general said in response to the Belarusian leader's words on the background of the conflict.

At the meeting with the Belarusian President Stanislav Zas also confirmed the need to discuss the situation on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.