Official Yerevan remained reluctant on Thursday to clarify its plans regarding new Russian-led unions of former Soviet republics, with a senior Armenian diplomatic making seemingly contradictory statements on the matter.
Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian acknowledged that membership in the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan would preclude the signing of an Association Agreement between Armenia and the European Union. He at the same time said Armenia will continue to seek integration with the Customs Union.
“Membership of the Customs Union does not allow you to join the EU’s free trade zone because you would delegate some of your powers to a supranational body,” Kocharian told reporters. “In that case, there is a contradiction.”
Kocharian went on to argue that Armenia can move closer to Russia because the Association Agreement falls short of EU membership. “As long as there is no question of joining structures there is no contradiction between being a member of the free trade zone in the European direction and doing the same with the Eurasian Union,” he said without elaborating.
Russia is trying to create the Eurasian Union on the basis of its existing trade bloc with Belarus and Kazakhstan. Hence, its apparent desire to see other ex-Soviet states join the Customs Union.
EU officials have repeatedly made clear that joining the union is “not compatible” with the association accord and its key element, a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). A senior European diplomat said earlier this week that Armenia remains on course to finalize its accord with the EU.
Asked whether the signing of that deal is now at risk because of what many in Armenia see as Russian pressure, Kocharian said, “Negotiations are continuing in both directions, with Russia and the West.”
Visiting Poland on Tuesday, President Serzh Sarkisian denied any contradiction between his administration’s simultaneous pursuit of closer ties with the EU and Russia. His Polish counterpart, Bronislaw Komorowski, welcomed Yerevan’s European integration drive but warned that “it is not possible to be in two economic areas simultaneously. “
“A choice must be made,” Komorowski told a joint news conference in Warsaw. “We fully understand and support Armenia's endeavors to build the best-possible economic relations with Russia, we also strive for the best-possible relations with ... the serious partner and neighbor which Russia is, but we do know to which area we belong.”