President Serzh Sarkisian rejected on Saturday a pro-Azerbaijani precondition for Armenia’s membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union which was set by his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev at a summit in Astana on Thursday.
Sarkisian insisted that Nazarbayev’s demand for mentioning Armenia’s internationally recognized borders in the upcoming accession treaty with Yerevan will not thwart his controversial efforts to join the union as soon as possible.
“As regards what was said by Nazarbayev, it is wrong to speak about borders to begin with,” he told young activists of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). “What borders are we talking about? The Karabakh problem is not supposed to be solved in the Customs Union.
“And who said that we are going to join the Customs Union with Karabakh? There has been and there can be no such thing because Karabakh, at least under our laws and from our perspective, is not an integral part of Armenia today.”
“Of course, what Nazarbayev said was unpleasant but it cannot cause us any damage,” added Sarkisian.
Nazarbayev cited a letter from Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev as he spoke at the summit on Thursday shortly after signing the new union’s founding treaty with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Belarus’s Aleksandr Lukashenko. “This is how you joined the World Trade Organization,” Nazarbayev told Sarkisian. “There is a precedent.”
The Armenian president did not respond to Nazarbayev’s blunt remarks at Astana, a fact that has prompted strong criticism from his critics at home opposed to Armenia’s membership to the union.
Opposition politicians and pundits argue that the treaty transforming Russia’s trade alliance with Kazakhstan and Belarus into the more closely-knit Eurasian Economic Union makes no references to their internationally recognized borders. They say Yerevan could be forced to tax goods imported from Karabakh if it accepts the condition demanded by Azerbaijan and backed by Kazakhstan. Armenian leaders have repeatedly ruled out the possibility of setting up customs checkpoints on the Karabakh frontier.
Sarkisian on Saturday did not say whether he believes that Armenia’s accession treaty with the union will be signed by July 1, as was agreed in Astana. He said only that there are only “two or three technical issues” relating to trade that remain to be agreed upon in the ongoing accession talks.