In what appeared to be a response to fresh criticism from his predecessor Robert Kocharian, President Serzh Sarkisian defended on Tuesday his pursuit of Armenia’s speedy accession to a Russian-led union of ex-Soviet states with its internationally recognized borders.
Sarkisian downplayed in that regard a pro-Azerbaijani precondition for Armenian membership in the bloc that was publicly set late last month by one its three founding member states, Kazakhstan.
“Yes, the Republic of Armenia will be joining the Customs Union with borders recognized by itself, just like the Republic of Armenia acceded to all other international structures for the past 22-23 years,” he told Armenian state television in a rare interview aired late in the evening.
Sarkisian insisted that he was not caught off guard when Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev stated at a May 29 summit in Astana that Yerevan’s accession treaty with the trade bloc, currently transformed into the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), must make a special reference to Armenia’s internationally recognized borders. Nazarbayev said Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev demanded this in letters sent to his Kazakh, Russia and Belarusian counterparts ahead of the summit.
The EEU’s founding treaty signed in Astana does not mention the borders of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan recognized by the United Nations.
According to Sarkisian, the Armenian government learned about Aliyev’s letter beforehand. He said he was taken aback by the very fact of Nazarbayev publicly citing that letter, rather than the essence of the Kazakh leader’s demands.
Sarkisian did not clarify whether he will agree to such wording in the text of the accession treaty with the EEU, which is supposed to be drafted by July 1. Nor would he say just when he thinks Armenia will sign it.
Sarkisian attacked instead unnamed political opponents who consider the Astana incident a serious blow to Armenia and proof of his inept foreign policy. “All those politicians who are trying to misunderstand the fact of Nagorno-Karabakh being independent and to exploit this topic are hampering, rather than facilitating, the issue’s resolution and creating additional dangers for Armenia,” he said.
A senior Armenian diplomat made similar arguments earlier this month. Kocharian was quick to lambaste him through his press secretary, Victor Soghomonian. The latter declared that the ex-president, who handed over power to Sarkisian in 2008, regards Karabakh as an “inseparable part of Armenia.” “The real extent of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s integration with Armenia is now close to the confederate model,” added Soghomonian.
The spokesman’s remarks appeared to be an indirect attack on Sarkisian as well. Kocharian has increasingly criticized the current Armenian government in recent months, stoking speculation about his intention to return to active politics.