Belarus wraps up 2023 CSTO chairmanship duties, passes baton to Kazakhstan for 2024
Kazakhstan assumes the rotating chairmanship of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for 2024, as outgoing chair Belarus vacates the post. At the joint meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers, the Council of Defense Ministers and the Committee of Secretaries of the Security Councils of the CSTO member states, hosted by the Belarusian capital of Minsk last November, Kazakh Foreign Minister Murat Nurtleu said that the Kazakh authorities were ready to continue pursuing the course of progressive development of the CSTO in the interests of all member states.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced at the CSTO summit in Minsk the top priorities for the organization during his country’s chairmanship. He focused in particular on security issues, stressing the need for cooperation in the area of fighting against international terrorism and extremism. Tokayev said that under Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the CSTO close attention will be paid to "the anti-terrorism component of the collective security system."
The Kazakh president also highlighted the necessity of continuing work aimed at stemming the departure of citizens who plan to join terrorist organizations abroad. Moreover, Kazakhstan issued a proposal to intensify the activities of the expert working group on combating terrorism and extremism under the Committee of Secretaries of the CSTO Security Councils.
Speaking further at the CSTO summit in Minsk, Tokayev stressed the importance of the organization’s cooperation with interested countries and international organizations. He proposed focusing on the established level of cooperation with the United Nations and its affiliated structures, as well as to step up interaction with the member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Talgat Kaliyev, director of the Institute of Applied Ethnopolitical Research of Kazakhstan, believes that, during its CSTO chairmanship, Astana will focus on image-building efforts to enhance the organization’s reputation and on coordinating work among its members to achieve consistency in the CSTO’s common messaging.
"Considering the voiced approaches of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who is a professional diplomat with immense experience, I believe that the work would be focused on the [organization’s] reputation, on better coordination of positions within the organization and on the consistency of the organization's rhetoric," Kaliyev said.
"This is what Kassym-Jomart Tokayev already spoke about in Minsk," Kaliyev continued. "In my opinion, these will be the issues topping the CSTO agenda during Kazakhstan’s chairmanship."
One of the acute issues on the agenda, according to the expert, will be the ambiguous stance of Armenia regarding the CSTO and the fact that Yerevan had no representation at all at the defense bloc’s recent summit in Minsk.
Kaliyev also pointed to existing contradictions between CSTO member states, citing the confrontation in recent years between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as an example.
"It is difficult to speak about the effectiveness [of the organization] when there is a lack of accord between the member states," he said. "Therefore, numerous issues should be reconsidered, they must be included on the agenda and discussed in order to reach a consensus."
"First of all, if we want see the image of the CSTO as that of a reliable, authoritative organization, there must be consistency in place regarding statements and approaches. On the whole, if we speak about the organization, the rhetoric and assumed stances of all member states must be synchronized," Kaliyev added.
The CSTO enters the year 2024 in the wake of a deterioration in its relationship with Armenia. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan voiced accusations last year in regard to the CSTO, alleging that it failed to assist Yerevan during armed clashes with Baku in May 2021 and September 2022.
Back then, Armenia urged that the question of the potential provision of security assistance be withdrawn from the CSTO’s agenda, and more recently Yerevan failed to send any representatives to attend the 2023 CSTO gathering in Minsk. However, officials in Yerevan stated that Armenia remained a member of the CSTO.
CSTO Secretary General Imangali Tasmagambetov stated in late November that Armenia remained as a reliable partner of the CSTO and that there was no point at all in putting forth categorical conclusions regarding Armenia’s absence at the organization’s meeting in Minsk.
"As far as the [CSTO] Secretariat knows, the reasons for the Armenian delegation’s absence were technical," Tasmagambetov said. "In any case, this is a decision by an independent and sovereign state that cannot be influenced by any other state or organization. The CSTO respects the decision by the Republic of Armenia as the organization’s full-fledged member."
Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last year that the CSTO would remain an intergovernmental organization for which there is a demand among countries in the region, while Russia hopes that Armenia will make a timely decision on the resumption of its membership within the organization.
The current member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization are Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
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