Russia-led bloc`s chief vows aid to Armenia if Karabakh war rekindles

The head of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has threatened Azerbaijan, saying that the Russia-led bloc of former Soviet states would aid Armenia if its military is not able to face Azerbaijani armed forces should a new war erupt.

Asked if Armenia`s CSTO membership could be an obstacle for Azerbaijan, CSTO Secretary General, Gen. Nikolai Bordyuzha answered affirmatively, saying ``the presence of allies and the assistance of partners is a very important factor``.

During a visit to the Armenian capital Yerevan, Bordyuzha also claimed that Armenia`s membership in CSTO facilitates the protection of stability in the volatile Caucasus region.

Besides Russia and Armenia, CSTO members are Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. One of the organization`s goals is to provide military aid to a CSTO member in the event of a military threat.

Armenia and Azerbaijan, its neighbor in the South Caucasus region, face a bitter conflict over Nagorno Karabakh that emerged in 1988 over Armenian territorial claims. The two countries fought a lengthy war that ended with the signing of a precarious cease-fire in 1994. Armenian armed forces have since occupied over 20 percent of Azerbaijan`s internationally recognized territory, including Nagorno Karabakh, defying international calls and UN resolutions. Peace talks, brokered by the United States, Russia and France through the OSCE Minsk Group, have been largely fruitless so far.

Tension has lately escalated on the contact line of Armenian and Azerbaijani troops. In June, nine soldiers from both sides were reported killed in a series of clashes along the Line of Contact. Azerbaijan`s Defense Ministry said the Armenian side was to blame for all the skirmishes.