Armenia and the European Union have still not started official negotiations on a new agreement to deepen their relations not contradicting Yerevan’s recent accession to a Russian-led alliance, a senior Armenian official said on Wednesday.
“No negotiation process with the European Union is underway right now. There are only expert-level discussions aimed at mapping out directions of future cooperation,” First Deputy Economy Minister Garegin Melkonian’s told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The remarks contrasted with a statement that was made by Melkonian to the official Armenpress news agency in December. He stated that Armenia and the EU could sign “in the near future” a deal that would contain not only political but also economic provisions of their ill-fated Association Agreement.
President Serzh Sarkisian precluded the signing of that agreement with his unexpected decision in 2013 to make Armenia part of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
Melkonian told Armenpress that in their preliminary discussions held earlier in 2014 Yerevan and Brussels all but identified concrete areas that would be covered by the new accord. He said senior officials from the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, plan to visit Yerevan in February for more substantive talks.
Melkonian was more cautious in commenting on the issue on Wednesday. The official would not be drawn on the possibility of the EU signing any documents with Armenia at a summit on its Eastern Partnership program that will take place in Latvia’s capital Riga in May. “I would advise you to ask the Foreign Ministry because it is in charge of preparatory work for that [summit,]” he said.
The ministry spokesman, Tigran Balayan, did not specify the Armenian government’s expectations from the summit. Balayan only cited Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian’s recent statement reaffirming Yerevan’s commitment to closer ties with the EU.
Nalbandian discussed those ties with the EU commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement, Johannes Hahn, during a visit to Brussels in January. Hahn said after the talks that the EU “should make best possible use” of the scrapped Association Agreement. “It needs to be adjusted in order to reflect the new context,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said afterwards that the two sides are still “reflecting on how to take our relations forward in light of Armenia’s obligations to the Eurasian Economic Union.”