Armenia has reportedly refused to join in any condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea at this week’s summit in Riga of the European Union and six former Soviet republics involved in the EU’s Eastern Partnership program.
The two-day summit, which began its work on Thursday evening, is due to adopt by consensus a concluding declaration on the EU’s ongoing efforts to deepen links with its ex-Soviet neighbors. Senior diplomats from the participating nations met in Brussels earlier this week to discuss a preliminary text drafted by EU officials.
The Reuters news agency quoted unnamed EU diplomats as saying that Armenia and Belarus objected to language in the draft that called Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula illegal. As a result, the diplomats said, the EU will come up with a compromise text that will note the EU's condemnation of the Crimean situation.
The summit communique will also refer to partner governments' positions on a pro-Ukrainian resolution that was overwhelmingly adopted by the UN General Assembly in March 2014. Armenia and Belarus were among a dozen states that voted against that resolution.
The UN vote came shortly after Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian welcomed a disputed referendum in Crimea that led to the Black Sea region’s annexation by Russia. Sarkisian cited the principle of peoples’ self-determination which is championed by Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Sarkisian’s move was criticized by Western powers and strongly condemned by Ukraine’s pro-Western government. The latter recalled the Ukrainian ambassador to Armenia, Ivan Kukhta, in protest. Kukhta returned to Yerevan in June 2014.
Armenia took a more neutral stance when the conflict in Ukraine was discussed by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in January. All three Armenian pro-government lawmakers attending the PACE session in Strasbourg abstained in a vote on a PACE resolution accusing Russia of military aggression against Russia.
Both Armenia and Belarus are members of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a defense pact also spearheaded by Moscow.
Russia has viewed the Eastern Partnership with deep suspicion ever since the program’s inception a decade ago. Visiting Brussels on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrovagain warned EU leaders against using the Eastern Partnership to harm Russia's own interests in the ex-Soviet “near abroad.”
“Trying to present things as ‘you’re either with us or against us,’ as a zero-sum game, brings undesirable results,” Lavrov said, according to Reuters. He added that he wants to see action in Riga to reassure Moscow.