Armenia could and should have equally good relations with the European Union and Russia, Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said during an official visit to Yerevan late on Monday.
Speaking after talks with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, Kurz said the EU should develop a new legal framework for deepening ties with Armenia after the latter joins a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet republics.
“I hope that we find a way in the European Union for countries like Armenia to cooperate with the EU and Russia,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I think a country like Armenia can have good relations with both partners. Especially in the economic sense, it is important for countries like Armenia to get closer to the European Union but to also have a good rapport with Russia.”
Asked about EU-related implications of Armenia’s upcoming accession to the Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Kurz said, “I hope that we can be faster and I hope we have new ways for the Eastern Partnership [program.]”
“I think Armenia will be able to cooperate with both the EU and Russia. I hope that we will find new ways for countries like Armenia,” added the 28-year-old minister.
The Armenian government has been trying to get the EU to sign a watered-down version of an “association agreement” with Armenia that would not contradict its membership in the Russian-led bloc. French President Francois Hollande is the only European leader to have publicly backed the idea so far. “Europe must accept an agreement on association with Armenia, and Armenia can go [ahead] with a trade and commercial union with Russia,” Hollande said during a May 2014 visit to Yerevan.
It is not clear if the issue was on the agenda of Kurz’s meetings in Yerevan. Sarkisian’s and Nalbandian’s press offices did not mention it in their statements on the talks. Speaking at a joint news conference with Kurz earlier on Monday, Nalbandian skirted a question about chances of an association pact with the EU.