Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian discussed with Russian government officials issues related to the South Caucasus nation’s planned membership in the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan as he visited Moscow on Friday.
The Armenian government’s press service said that while in Moscow Sarkisian met with Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Vice-Premier Arkady Dvorkovich.
“The working meeting focused on the agenda of the agreements reached during the latest meeting of President of Armenia Serzh Sarkisian and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin,” said a government press release. “The parties reached agreement over the steps aimed at the realization of the agenda issues.”
Following his September 3 talks with his Russian counterpart in Moscow the Armenian president announced that Armenia had decided to join the Customs Union. The joint statement issued by the two presidents also committed Armenia to “participating in the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union”, a Putin-promoted post-Soviet integration project widely regarded as an effort to ensure long-term Russian influence in much of the ex-USSR.
Armenia’s decision to engage in post-Soviet integration came less than three months before it was to initial an Association Agreement with the European Union that would open a way for the South Caucasus nation to form a deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA) with the EU market.
The leadership in Yerevan has denied any pressure from Moscow in the matter of joining the Customs Union that some officials in Brussels see as the main reason behind the apparent U-turn in Armenia’s policy.
While acknowledging that a DCFTA deal could be incompatible with membership in the Customs Union, senior Armenian officials have indicated that Yerevan still hopes to get at least a watered-down version of the Association Agreement signed at the EU Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in late November.
Addressing the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg on October 2 President Sarkisian said that Armenia was still keen on signing an association deal with the EU envisaging mainly political reforms. “We are not only ready but also determined to carry out those reforms in our country. This process is now underway,” he emphasized.
In the meantime, the Armenian government last month announced the official start of preparations for Armenia’s accession to the Moscow-led Union, approving a plan of corresponding actions that were due to be taken by October 10.
Interestingly, Armenian Prime Minister Sarkisian discussed issues related to cooperation as part of the Customs Union with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev over the phone on October 9. His schedule of the Moscow trip did not include a meeting with the Russian premier, however.
Still, while in the Russian capital Sarkisian met with Viktor Khristenko, the head of the Eurasian Economic Commission, which is the Customs Union’s executive body.
“The sides discussed the course of the work implemented within the framework of the memorandum of understanding on cooperation signed between Armenia and the Customs Union,” the Armenian government said in a brief statement for the press.