By Emil Danielyan
Armenia reaffirmed its “long-term” commitment to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on Wednesday following neighboring Georgia’s decision to leave the Russian-led grouping of 12 former Soviet republics in protest against Russia’s military operations on its soil.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili announced the move during a big rally in Tbilisi on Tuesday. "We are leaving the CIS for good and propose that other countries leave this body run by Russia," he said, again accusing Moscow of unleashing a military aggression against his nation.
None of the other CIS countries, including those with uneasy relations with Russia, has headed Saakashvili’s call so far.
“The issue of leaving the CIS can not be on Armenia’s foreign policy agenda,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gegham Gharibjanian said in a written answer to a question from the official Russian Itar-Tass news agency. Armenia’s membership in the loose grouping formed during the collapse of the Soviet Union is the result of a “long-term political choice,” he said in comments that underlined his country’s close political, military and economic ties with Russia.
Gharibjanian declined to comment on Georgia’s announced pullout from the CIS, reflecting Yerevan’s desire maintain neutrality in the Russian-Georgian military conflict. But another Armenian official called Tbilisi’s move a “mistake.”
“[Membership in] the CIS, which Saakashvili has branded a ‘Soviet club,’ gave Georgia good opportunities to settle relations with its northern neighbor,” Avet Adonts, chairman of the Armenian parliament’s committee on European integration, told the Regnum news agency.
Adonts also implied that Armenia has no choice but to stick with the Russian-dominated alliance. “Accession to NATO is on Georgia’s foreign policy agenda but is not on Armenia’s,” he said. “This issue will not be considered [by Armenia] at least in the near future, considering the situation in the region and relations with our immediate neighbors.”
“We should develop ties with NATO, there is no question about that, but leaving the CIS is a luxury which we can’t afford,” added the lawmaker.