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Yerevan Sees No Russian Sanctions Over EU Integration


Russia -- Border crossing "Nekhoteyevka" between Russia and Ukraine in Belgorod Region, July 30, 2013

Russia -- Border crossing "Nekhoteyevka" between Russia and Ukraine in Belgorod Region, July 30, 2013

A senior pro-government Armenian lawmaker expressed confidence on Tuesday that Russia will not impose trade sanctions on Armenia in retaliation for its upcoming Association Agreement with the European Union.

Gagik Minasian, the chairman of an Armenian parliament committee on finance and budgetary affairs, said Yerevan will avoid the kind of Russian economic pressure which now seems to be exerted on Ukraine. The latter also plans to cut a similar deal with the EU at an EU summit slated for November.

Russia effectively closed its market to most Ukrainian goods on August 13, declaring them to be “high risk” because of alleged problems with the authenticity of customs declarations filed by their importers. A Ukrainian business association said afterwards that Ukrainian firms stand to lose more than $2 billion under existing contracts if nothing is done to resolve the matter quickly.

Ukraine responded by suspending wheat imports from Russia. It also threatened to lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organization. The prime ministers of the two states are expected to meet and discuss the trade dispute later this month.

Sergey Glazyev, an economic adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, acknowledged at the weekend that the Russian “prophylactic measures” are connected with the Ukrainian government’s plans to sign the Association Agreement with the EU. Moscow has been pushing Kiev to join the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union instead.

Armenia -- Gagik Minasian, chairman of the parliament committee on finance and budgetary affairs.

Armenia -- Gagik Minasian, chairman of the parliament committee on finance and budgetary affairs.

Minasian insisted that Armenia will not face similar Russia trade sanctions because unlike Ukraine as well as Georgia and Moldova -- the two other ex-Soviet states poised to finalize association accords with the EU -- it does not aspire to eventually joining the EU.

“Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine have clearly stated that membership of the European Union is their strategic aim,” Minasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Armenia has never said that it aims to join the EU. What we have said is that we are going down the path of European integration but that EU membership is not on our political agenda.”

The lawmaker, who is a senior member of the ruling Republican Party (HHK), also argued that Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance of six former Soviet republics. The Association Agreement will not call that membership into question, he said.

Armenian opposition politicians are less sanguine about Russian reaction to Yerevan’s European integration drive. “Nothing can be ruled out because Russia is not dealing in a predictable manner with any foreign partner,” said Alexander Arzumanian, an opposition deputy and former foreign minister.

Vahagn Khachatrian, a senior member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), was more categorical. “The same problem will definitely arise for Armenia,” he claimed.

Moscow has not publicly criticized Yerevan’s plans to seal the far-reaching deal with the EU so far. Still, a host of Russian analysts sympathetic to the Kremlin have warned of serious damage to Russian-Armenian ties in recent weeks.

Russia is Armenia’s leading trading partner, accounting for 22 percent of the South Caucasus state’s foreign trade and absorbing more than 20 percent of Armenian exports in the first half of this year. Russia has long been the main market for Armenian agricultural products, prepared foodstuffs and alcoholic beverages sold abroad.
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