Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian appears to have reaffirmed his objections to Armenia’s membership in the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan that Moscow hopes will develop into a closely-knit bloc of friendly ex-Soviet states.
In an interview with the Russian daily “Izvestia” published on Monday, Sarkisian indicated that the Armenian government is more enthusiastic about its ongoing negotiations with the European Union on the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA).
“Our priority today is the agreement on the comprehensive free trade zone,” he said. “We want to sign it in 2013, even though our European colleagues think that this will happen in 2014.”
“Armenia has a specificity: we do not border on the Customs Union and need to work out mechanisms for cooperation. We have formed a working group that will help us to sort this out,” he added.
The Russian-Armenian group was set up after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most recent talks with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian, which were held in Moscow in August. Putin said it “will look at how the latest cooperation agreements between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus within the framework of the customs union could be used with regard to Armenia with all specificities involved.”
“We have no common borders [with Armenia] but we could think about using some instruments that have already been agreed upon by the three states,” Putin told a joint news conference with Serzh Sarkisian.
The absence of common borders has been the main declared reason for Armenia’s reluctance to join the customs arrangement Putin hopes will form the backbone of a future Russian-led “Eurasian Union” of former Soviet republics. Top Russian officials actively promoted the would-be union during visits to Yerevan this summer, fuelling speculation that the Armenian government is under growing pressure to embrace the idea.
Prime Minister Sarkisian told “Izvestia” that the customs union will put Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan one step away from introducing a common currency, which he said would benefit all three nations. “Those countries have similar levels of development and they are not going to live at the expense of others,” he said.
In that context, the Armenian premier spoke of no benefits of the union and common currency for his country.