Kazakhstan’s last-minute precondition for Armenia’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union is a serious diplomatic setback suffered by President Serzh Sarkisian, the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) claimed on Tuesday.
Levon Zurabian, the deputy chairman of the party headed by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, denounced Sarkisian for failing to respond to his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev at the union’s founding summit held in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana last week. He dismissed as unconvincing Sarkisian’s subsequent statement rejecting any linkage between membership in the ex-Soviet bloc and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“His assertions are quite inadequate,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “One must choose diplomatic phrases that are both appropriate for domestic consumption and are acceptable to the international community. He has failed to do that.”
Speaking at the Astana summit, Nazarbayev said the union’s accession treaty with Armenia must make a special reference to the South Caucasus country’s internationally recognized borders that do not encompass Nagorno-Karabakh. He revealed that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev demanded this in letters sent to the presidents of the union’s three member states: Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Sarkisian appeared to have been caught off guard by Nazarbayev’s statement broadcast live by Russian television. He did not respond to the longtime Kazakh leader at the summit. Sarkisian rejected Nazarbayev’s demand only on his return to Armenia, arguing that Karabakh is not an integral part of his country.
“Nobody is saying that he must achieve Karabakh’s international recognition now,” said Zurabian. “The most important objective which he must achieve is to ensure that regardless of the path chosen by Armenia, international organizations joined by it, the de facto situation -- namely, economic links between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, unfettered transport of goods and people -- must not be undermined or called into question in any way.”
Zurabian said Sarkisian should have told Nazarbayev that Karabakh’s economic ties with Armenia are a “humanitarian issue” and that “there can be no solution that would damage the fundamental rights of the Karabakh people.” “In effect, Serzh Sarkisian missed that chance,” added the oppositionist. “It was the right moment to talk about the situation which the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are in.”
The incident at the Astana summit has also prompted concern from three other major Armenian parties challenging Sarkisian. However, their top representatives as well as Zurabian did not discuss it at a meeting held in Yerevan on Monday. Only one of those parties, Zharangutyun (Heritage), is openly against joining the union cobbled together by Russia.