President Serzh Sarkisian defended on Thursday his desire to quickly expedite Armenia’s accession to a Russian-led union of ex-Soviet states, which appears to have surprised even Moscow.
“If we decided to join the Customs Union, then we must do that as quickly as possible,” Sarkisian said during an official visit to the Czech Republic. “Why should we slow down?”
“If our decision is based on our national interests, then it must be put into practice as soon as possible,” he told a joint news conference with his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman.
Sarkisian unexpectedly decided to make Armenia part of the union last August just as his government was about to finalize an Association Agreement with the European Union. The planned agreement was abandoned as a result of his U-turn.
Russian officials say that they are pleasantly surprised by the speed with which Yerevan is taking measures necessary for completing the accession process. “Many did not expect that Armenia will be moving towards the Customs Union so fast,” Ivan Volynkin, the Russian ambassador in Yerevan, said earlier this week.
Sarkisian dismissed suggestions that his administration should have steered clear of the Russian-led union not least because of continuing Russian arms supplies to Azerbaijan. “I want to remind you that the Customs Union is a primarily economic, rather than military, structure,” he said. “And it is wrong to call into question Russian-Armenian strategic cooperation.”
“True, the Russian side is cooperating with Azerbaijan as well, but that doesn’t mean that we have the right and capacity to block that cooperation,” he added.