By Hrach Melkumian and Emil Danielyan
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian revealed on Monday that Armenia’s has agreed not to veto Azerbaijan’s future membership in the World Trade Organization after its own admission into the powerful global body which is due to be formalized on Tuesday.
Markarian indicated that the pledge is part of a deal whereby WTO member Turkey will drop its hitherto unpublicized objections to Armenia’s long-standing efforts to join the organization. “We will not impede the Azerbaijani side’s membership just as they, both Turkey and Azerbaijan, have not created serious problems for us,” he said.
Markarian spoke to reporters at Yerevan airport before leaving for Geneva at the head of a large Armenian government delegation which will attend a regular session of the WTO’s General Council. The governing body is poised to rubber stamp Armenia’s admission. A final agreement on that was reached on November 21 by a WTO “working party” examining Armenia’s membership bid.
According to Markarian, some members of the WTO had pushed for a simultaneous accession of Armenia and Azerbaijan for political considerations. “There were some negotiations and they were trying to politicize the issue by demanding that Armenia and Azerbaijan join simultaneously,” he said without naming any country.
Azerbaijan is only in the initial stages of WTO membership talks and will take months, if not years, to complete them. It is not clear whether the linkage between Baku’s and Yerevan’s membership bids was made only by Turkey.
Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian claimed in October that the United States delayed Armenia’s WTO membership by insisting on the simultaneous membership of the two Caucasus foes. Khachatrian later publicly retracted the comment following strong denials by Washington.
One unofficial American source familiar with Washington’s dealings with Ankara and Yerevan told RFE/RL recently that Armenia would not have secured WTO membership unless the Turks had dropped their pro-Azerbaijani objections. The source claimed that they had expressed those objections through the U.S. government.
Some analysts and WTO experts have said previously that Turkey’s continuing economic blockade of Armenia runs counter to WTO rules and could be successfully challenged the Armenian government once it joins the organization. But so far Armenian officials have not expressed any intention to do so. They instead speak of expected benefits resulting from the opening of world markets to Armenian-made products.
Markarian likewise argued on Monday that the positive impact of the WTO membership on the Armenian economy will be felt only several years later. “I hope that we will have very tangible results in the next five or six years. It will give a new impetus to our economic development,” he said.