Armenia has only tentatively agreed to join a Russian-led customs union which the Kremlin wants to expand into a new alliance of ex-Soviet states, parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian claimed on Thursday.
Abrahamian said that the Armenian leadership needs to clarify all terms of its accession to the union before making a final decision. Yerevan does not yet know just what it would gain from that, he said.
“The president agreed to membership in the customs union,” Abrahamian told the press. “That will be followed by an extensive process. When we see the conditions, agreements and formats we will discuss them and understand. That must stem from Armenia’s interests.
“We need to have benefits in the economic, political and all other respects. We don’t yet know what those benefits will be.”
“If it’s not a good document, if it doesn’t stem from the interests of our state, we won’t accept it. This is a tentative agreement. The document may be such that the National Assembly won’t approve it. So everything still lies ahead,” he added in reference to dozens of legislative changes which Armenia has to make before formally joining the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Abrahamian’s comments left journalists bewildered. Some of them wondered why President Serzh Sarkisian promised Armenian membership of the union during his September 3 talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the first place.
“Because today our strategic partnership and economic ties are with Russia,” replied the influential speaker. “Can’t you see that Russia is our market?” He also made clear that he personally stands for joining the customs union.
In a joint statement with Putin, Sarkisian committed himself to not only making Armenia part of the trade bloc but also “participating in the formation” of a broader Eurasian Economic Union of ex-Soviet states. The move is likely to scuttle Armenia’s Association Agreement with the European Union, which was originally due to be finalized in November.