President Serzh Sarkisian was conspicuously present on Thursday at the official presentation of a new book by one of his political allies that makes a case for Armenia’s membership in a Russian-led Eurasian Union of former Soviet republics.
The book titled “The Eurasian Union is the path to independent Armenia’s future” has been published with the financial support of the Russian Embassy in Yerevan. It is a collection of articles by and media interviews with Artashes Geghamian, a former opposition leader who has supported Sarkisian since 2007.
Sarkisian did not speak at the event and a statement issued by his press office did not specify whether the president’s presence amounted to an endorsement of the book’s message or was merely a show of respect for his well-known loyalist. Sarkisian had attended some of Geghamian’s previous book launches.
Sarkisian took part in the ceremony the day after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin following a Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in Moscow. A separate statement by his press service said the two leaders discussed ways of deepening Russian-Armenian relations “in a number of areas.” It gave no details.
Putin and Sarkisian, who also met in Turkmenistan two weeks ago, were expected to again discuss Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which Moscow wants to turn into a larger Eurasian Union in the near future. The Armenian has been reluctant to join either union until now despite apparent Russian pressure.
In contrast, Geghamian, who was elected to the Armenian parliament on the ruling Republican Party’s ticket this year, has been actively campaigning for such membership. He told reporters on Thursday that it will open up huge markets for Armenian exporters.
“To put it bluntly, ignoring such a market would be political short-sightedness,” Geghamian said, according to Aysor.am. “Besides, Armenia’s security is guaranteed by its membership of the CSTO.”
Armenia’s entry into the Customs Union would call into question its continued integration with the European Union and, in particular, ongoing negotiations on the Association Agreement with the EU. A key element of that agreement is the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.
Armenian and EU officials wrapped up a fresh round of association talks in Brussels on Wednesday. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said the two sides reaffirmed their intention to have the Association Agreement finalized by November 2013.
In Yerevan, meanwhile, Traian Hristea, head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, was quoted by Tert.am as saying on Thursday that Armenia will inevitably have to make a choice between European and Eurasian integration. “You cannot simultaneously develop economic and trade relations with the two different structures,” he said. “The ball is now in your court.”