Armenia and the European Union said on Thursday that they expect to complete next year ongoing negotiations on a new agreement to deepen their political and economic ties.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian spoke of “substantial progress” in those talks launched last December.
“After we complete the negotiations Armenia will be ready to sign [the agreement,]” Nalbandian said after hosting a meeting of top diplomats from ex-Soviet states involved in the EU’s Eastern Partnership program.
“We certainly realize that the EU will need to go through an internal process of approval and we hope -- and are in a sense confident -- that this process will be quick and the EU will also be ready to sign it,” added Nalbandian.
Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner for European neighborhood policy, also took part in the Yerevan meeting. “I hope we can conclude our negotiations very soon, in the course of next year,” he told a joint news conference.
The planned accord will serve as a substitute for an Association Agreement negotiated by Armenian and EU officials in the summer of 2013. President Serzh Sarkisian precluded its signing with his unexpected decision in September 2013 to seek Armenia’s accession a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states.
The new framework deal is expected to contain many political and even economic provisions of the cancelled Association Agreement. But it will have no free trade-related component due to Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The Armenian government has been anxious to ensure that the deal with the EU does not run counter to its EEU commitments.
The head of the EU Delegation in Armenia, Piotr Switalski, reportedly expressed hope in January that the negotiations with Yerevan will be concluded by the end of this year. The most recent, fifth round of the talks was held in the Armenian capital late last month.
Sarkisian reaffirmed his government’s commitment to closer ties with the EU when he met with Hahn later in the day. “Serzh Sarkisian stressed that Armenia attaches importance to its participation in the Eastern Partnership program,” his office said in a statement.