John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, made a case for Armenia’s close relations with the West on Tuesday, saying that they could help the country reduce the fallout from Western economic sanctions against Russia.
Heffern commented on possible consequences of those sanctions in the light of Armenia’s imminent accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in an online “twitter chat” with local journalists and other Armenians.
“Sanctions not directed [against] Armenia. To end sanctions, Russia knows what to do,” tweeted the diplomat. He said Washington does realize that the Russian and Armenian economies are “interrelated.”“One more reason for partnership [with the West] is to diversify economy and to create options,” he added.
In another tweet, Heffern stressed that close partnership with the United States and the European Union means “economic opportunity, international values, and access to the outside.”
The head of the World Bank’s Yerevan office, Laura Bailey, made a similar point last month. She said membership in the EEU alone will not speed up Armenia’s economic development and needs to be complemented by closer commercial links with Europe.
“It would be this ability to creatively exploit as many different markets as possible, without being locked into a bloc, that will determine the dynamism of Armenia’s economy in the medium term,” Bailey told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The Armenian government insists that it remains committed to deepening ties with the EU, Armenia’s main trading partner on aggregate. President Serzh Sarkisian has repeatedly claimed that his country will now become more attractive to Western investors seeking tariff-free access to the Russian market.