A senior pro-government lawmaker downplayed on Wednesday an apparent delay in Armenia’s membership in the Russian-led Customs Union, saying that the accession process will be completed within the next month.
Artak Zakarian, the chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on foreign affairs, did not specify, however, whether an accession treaty with the bloc’s three member states -- Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan -- will be signed at the next meeting of their presidents slated for May 29.
During their last summit held in Minsk on April 29, President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh and Belarusian counterparts instructed the Customs Union’s executive body to prepare the treaty by June 1.
The treaty was previously expected to be drafted and signed at Minsk. However, President Serzh Sarkisian skipped that summit for unclear reasons.
It is not yet known whether the delay is related to significant trade concessions sought by Yerevan. Opening the Minsk summit, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko spoke out against granting new member states “any special terms or statuses.” Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev appeared to back this stance.
“None of the outstanding issues is connected with Armenia,” Zakarian told a news conference. “They have to do with other states.” He did not go into details.
Russia hopes that Belarus and Kazakhstan will formally agree to turn their trade bloc into a Eurasian Economic Union at the May 29 summit, which will take place in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana. Some officials in Yerevan said last month that Armenia may join the new alliance after its transformation.
Zakarian again echoed government assurances that membership in the Russian-dominated bloc poses no threat to Armenia’s independence. “Armenia bases its membership on economic and security considerations, including energy security, food security, communication security, military-political security,” he said. “But Armenia does not assume that its sovereignty can be limited.”
Meanwhile, Sarkisian flew to Moscow later in the day to attend an informal summit of five ex-Soviet states aligned in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Sarkisian’s office said he will also hold separate talks with Putin on Thursday.