Official Yerevan on Tuesday gave no clear reason for President Serzh Sarkisian’s unexpected failure to attend a summit of the Russian-led Customs Union which Armenia plans to join this year.
The presidential press secretary, Arman Saghatelian, confirmed that Sarkisian did not fly to Belarusian capital Minsk for the meeting of his counterparts from Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan held later in the day. Saghatelian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Sarkisian is now in Yerevan and continuing with his “usual work schedule.”
Asked about the reason for the no-show, Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan said only that the leaders of the Customs Union’s three member states will be briefed by the head of the trade bloc’s executive body on the implementation of a “roadmap” to Armenia’s membership. Balayan did not comment further.
Artak Zakarian, the pro-government chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations, downplayed Sarkisian’s absence from the Minsk summit, insisting that there are no “problems” in Yerevan’s accession talks with the union. “Some issues are still being negotiated,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I don’t think they should be linked to the Minsk summit. The process remains on track.”
Opposition politicians suggested, however, that Armenia’s accession to the alliance, which Russia hopes to transform into a Eurasian Union by next year, has hit a snag.
“Obviously something is not going according to plan,” said Levon Zurabian of the Armenian National Congress (HAK). Zurabian denounced the “secrecy” of the membership process, saying that the Sarkisian administration is keeping Armenians in the dark about the future of their country.
Tevan Poghosian, another opposition lawmaker, welcomed the apparent delay in Armenia’s entry into the union strongly opposed by his pro-Western Zharangutyun (Heritage) party. “I feel somewhat happy that Armenia still has time to weigh up things and make a better decision,” he said.