Armenia stands by its decision to join a Russian-led trade bloc and expects the European Union to specify its approaches to further cooperation with the former Soviet country, a senior pro-government lawmaker said in Yerevan on Wednesday.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on the eve of the November 28-29 EU Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Artak Zakarian, who chairs the Armenian National Assembly’s standing foreign relations committee, did not specify what document Armenia may sign with the 28-nation bloc in the Lithuanian capital.
“Everything is clear in the case with Armenia, that’s why we will wait for the European Union to specify its approaches generally within the framework of the Eastern Partnership Program. There is still time for that,” said Zakarian.
After nearly four years of negotiations with the European Union earlier this fall Armenia unexpectedly decided to join the Customs Union currently embracing Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and further participate in the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union, a post-Soviet integration project advocated by the Kremlin.
The decision that President Serzh Sarkisian announced on September 3 after talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow was described by many analysts and Brussels officials as a policy U-turn that effectively nullified the efforts on signing an association deal with the EU that provided for the establishment of a deep and comprehensive free trade area with the 28-nation bloc.
Officials in Yerevan, meanwhile, have denied any sharp change in their policies, saying that they simply made a choice between two processes that they had pursued from the very beginning and originally wanted to see combined.
Senior HHK member, Deputy Parliament Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov said that the very fact that the Armenian president will attend the Vilnius summit speaks about Armenia’s intention to continue political dialogue with the EU and reforms aimed at strengthening democratic values. He told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union cannot be an obstacle to political cooperation with Brussels.
Armenian and EU officials last month began negotiating over an alternative non-binding document that could be signed in Vilnius later this week. Armenian officials have not divulged any details concerning the document or the course of the negotiations.