Armenia’s accession to the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan is still not a forgone conclusion, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko reportedly said on Monday.
Lukashenko insisted that President Serzh Sarkisian made only “a half step” toward the Russian-led trade bloc when the latter announced an unexpected change in Armenian foreign policy during a September 3 visit to Moscow. He said he arrived at this conclusion after discussing the matter with Russian leaders and meeting with Sarkisian later in September.
“I noticed that this is not even the first step, this is a half-step because there is no certainty on this issue,” Lukashenko told journalists in Minsk, according to the Belarusian Belta news agency.
Lukashenko noted in that regard that the authorities in Yerevan would still like to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union. “There is too much uncertainty in this process. Certain haste here would be the worst thing,” he said.
Russia - Presidents Serzh Sarkisian (L) of Armenia and Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus meet in Sochi, 23Sep2013.
The Belarusian leader voiced support for Armenian membership of the customs when he met Sarkisian on September 23 on the sidelines of a Collective Security Treaty Organization summit in Sochi, Russia. He was quoted by his press office as telling Sarkisian t that the Belarusian government is ready to help Yerevan to “rapidly complete all the membership procedures.” “We have not changed our mind,” Sarkisian was reported to say for his part.
Lukashenko cautioned on Monday that the accession process would take months, if not years, because Armenian laws and regulations need to be brought into conformity with those existing in the customs union. “Armenia cannot join the customs union tomorrow or the day after or this year or maybe even next year,” he declared, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.
The Armenian government formed on September 19 seven working groups tasked with preparing for the official membership talks with the union. It is still not clear when those talks will get underway. Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian discussed the issue with Russian official when he visited Moscow on October 11.