Armenia asks for military assistance as Russia reiterates treaty obligations to Yerevan

Moscow reiterated on Saturday that it would provide Armenia with military assistance if fighting reached Armenian territory, the Agence France-Presse reported.

On Saturday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss military assistance in the ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Sources in Yerevan have also told Ahval that Pashinyan has sent former Armenian Presidents Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Robert Kocharyan to Moscow for talks. Kocharyan had been given a travel ban and was on trial for “overthrowing constitutional order” in the last weeks of his Presidency. The visit has so far not been confirmed.

Armenia and Russia signed a defence treaty in 2010 which Yerevan said would preclude the possibility of Azerbaijan using force to take back Nagorno-Karabakh. However, analysts at the time said that “the extended treaty only refers to defending Armenia, while Nagorno-Karabakh is legally part of Azerbaijan, and is therefore not covered by the treaty.”

Russia is reluctant to intervene to help Armenia retain control of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is recognised by the international community to be part of the territory of Azerbaijan. Such a move could draw Turkey into the conflict directly to help Azerbaijan.

“Moscow, which has previously said that its defense pact with Armenia does not extend to the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, reiterated that help would be provided if the fighting expanded”, the AFP said.

However, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also said that "concrete formats" of assistance to Armenia would be considered.

Pashinyan also blamed Turkey for precipitating the conflict on Sunday in an interview with al-Arabiya, a Saudi owned television channel.

The ongoing conflict between #Armenia and #Azerbaijan “would not have happened without #Turkey’s intervention,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan tells Al Arabiya.

— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) November 1, 2020

Former U.S. Ambassador and co-chair of the OSCE Minsk group, Carey Cavanaugh, told AFP that "It is impossible to calculate the risk, but injection of either Russian or Turkish armed forces at this point would mark a significant escalation of the conflict”.

“Pashinian’s request puts Russia in a precarious position: joining the fighting would be fraught with unpredictable consequences and risk an open conflict with Turkey, while refusing to offer protection to its ally Armenia would dent Moscow’s prestige,” Associated Press said

Talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan on Friday did not lead to any breakthrough, with both sides only stating that they would not deliberately target civilian areas.

The leader of Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist government said on Thursday that  Azeri troops had advanced to less than 5 kilometers of the town of Shusha, just south of the region’s capital, Stepanakert.