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France has welcomed the successful conclusion of negotiations on a new agreement designed to deepen Armenia’s political and economic ties with the European Union.

The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement was finalized in time for President Serzh Sarkisian’s visit to Brussels earlier this week. European Council President Donald Tusk said after talks with Sarkisian on Monday that it will “broaden the scope of our relations.”

“This agreement will step up the political dialogue between the EU and Armenia on our shared commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement released late on Wednesday.

“It will facilitate expanded cooperation on energy, transportation and the environment,” said the statement. “It will create new opportunities for trade and investment while protecting French and European geographical indications.”

The accord, which is expected to be signed in May, will serve as a less ambitious substitute for an Association Agreement negotiated by Armenian and EU officials in the summer of 2013. Sarkisian scuttled its signing with his unexpected decision in September 2013 to make Armenia part of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The U-turn was widely attributed to strong Russian pressure.

France -- French President Francois Hollande (L) greets Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian as he arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris, October 27, 2014.

France -- French President Francois Hollande (L) greets Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian as he arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris, October 27, 2014.

Visiting Yerevan in May 2014, French President Francois Hollande advocated a “special model” of political “association” between the EU and Armenia that would not run counter to the latter’s commitments to the ex-Soviet trade bloc.

“Europe must accept an agreement on association with Armenia, and Armenia can go ahead with a trade and commercial union with Russia,” Hollande told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) at the time.

France has long been a key EU backer of Armenia, owing, in large measure, to the existence of a large and influential French-Armenian community.

Sarkisian reaffirmed his government’s desire to forge closer links with the EU during his visit to Brussels which also involved talks with other senior EU officials. “Our people regard themselves as Europeans,” he said in a speech.

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