A senior Armenian pro-government politician rejected on Wednesday Kazakh President Nursutlan Nazarbayev’s apparent threats to block Armenia’s accession to the Customs of Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan if Yerevan does not end a free-trade regime with Nagorno-Karabakh.
Nazarbayev issued the warning on Tuesday at a summit in Moscow that was also attended by President Serzh Sarkisian. “The question of the Custom Union’s border, where it will pass in Armenia, remains open,” he said before adding his country’s “special opinion” to a “roadmap” to Armenian membership of the Russian-led bloc.
Nazarbayev clearly referred to Armenia’s border with the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the absence of any Armenian customs posts there. Armenia will presumably be required to levy import duties, set by the Customs Union, from goods coming from Karabakh after joining the trade bloc. Armenian leaders have ruled out such possibility until now.
“It is crystal clear that this approach [by Nazarbayev] will not be acceptable to us. That variant will not be even discussed,” said Galust Sahakian, a deputy chairman of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Sahakian went so far as to claim that Karabakh will effectively be part of the Customs Union after Armenia completes accession talks with its three member states.
Armenian opposition leaders are far less sanguine about possible implications of Customs Union membership for the Armenian-populated disputed territory. They have expressed serious concern over the possible setting up of customs checkpoints on the Karabakh boundary.
Aram Manukian, a senior member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), blamed Sarkisian for the Kazakh leader’s perceived pro-Azerbaijani stance. “Serzh Sarkisian has brought the situation to a point where they can say anything about Armenia and Karabakh without hearing his response, as if he doesn’t exist,” Manukian said. “This is the result of his adventurist and untrustworthy foreign policy.”
It is not clear whether Sarkisian responded to Nazarbayev’s reservations during Tuesday’s meeting of the Custom’s Union’s governing body.