Armenia will host in September a meeting of the foreign ministers of former Soviet republics participating in the Eastern Partnership program that entitles them to far-reaching “association agreements” with the European Union.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry made the announcement on Tuesday in a statement on Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian’s participation in a similar meeting that was held in Brussels late on Monday.
The meeting brought together the top diplomats of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine as well as the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and enlargement commissioner, Stefan Fuele. It focused on ongoing preparations for an EU summit on the Eastern Partnership that will take place in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius in late November. The EU is expected to finalize the association agreements with Armenia, Georgia and Moldova during the summit.
Visiting Yerevan earlier this month, Fuele confirmed that the Armenia-EU accord, which involves a crucial free trade component, is on track to be initialed at Vilnius. Armenian leaders reassured him that they remain committed to significantly upgrading their country’s relationship with the 28-nation union.
The plans to hold the next ministerial meeting on the Eastern Partnership in Yerevan on September 12-13 are a further sign that the Armenian government will not back away from European integration to join an alternative Russian-led union of ex-Soviet states. Several Russian pundits close to the Kremlin have criticized Yerevan for this policy in recent weeks. Armenian leaders insist, however, that they are facing no pressure Russian government on the issue.