The European Union’s Eastern Partnership program for Armenia and five other former Soviet republics is not designed to weaken their links with Russia or any other state, President Serzh Sarkisian insisted late on Thursday.
“From our perspective, the Eastern Partnership is an initiative aimed at creating cooperation rather than differences. It is not directed against any state or grouping of states. This partnership is aimed at finally overcoming division lines,” he said during a visit to Moldova.
Sarkisian was speaking at a joint news conference in Chisinau with the leaders of Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia whose parties are affiliated with the European People’s Party (EPP). They as well as EPP President Wilfried Martens addressed the media after discussing preparations for an EU summit on the Eastern Partnership due in November. The EU is expected to finalize “association agreements” with Armenia, Georgia and Moldova during that summit.
Sarkisian’s remarks came amid signs that Russia, which has viewed the Eastern Partnership with suspicion, is unhappy with Armenia’s plans to conclude the association accord and thus avoid joining a planned Eurasia Union of ex-Soviet states loyal to Moscow.
In an interview published on Monday, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, until recently Russia’s ambassador to Armenia, warned that Yerevan will undermine its close ties with Moscow if it steers clear of the Russian-led union. Konstantin Zatulin, a prominent Russian pundit and former parliamentarian, likewise criticized “the disdainful attitude to the Eurasian integration project in Armenia” on Thursday.
“The West is competing with Russia, trying to impede any integration processes in the Eurasian space,” Zatulin told the Regnum news agency. “He who sides with our competitor will face consequences of that choice,” he warned.
The Russian government has so far issued no such warnings in public. Sarkisian insisted in March that Yerevan is not under Russian pressure to promise membership of the Eurasian Union.