A senior member of the Russian Federal Assembly believes Nagorno-Karabakh will be entitled to join the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) only if its status is finally determined. Meanwhile, according to him, Crimea will be part of the emerging trade bloc as “primordially Russian land”.
“If the status of Nagorno-Karabakh is determined as Armenian territory, then there will be no problems. But today the issue is suspended,” said Nikolay Ryzhkov, a member of the Council of the Federation of the Russian Federal Assembly.
Ryzhkov was one of the top government leaders in the late Soviet period. In 2008, the Armenian Government awarded Ryzhkov its highest state decoration, the National Hero of Armenia, in recognition of his significant personal contribution to the reconstruction in Armenia after the 1988 Spitak earthquake.
As veteran co-chair of the Armenian-Russian Inter-Parliamentary Committee on Cooperation, Ryzhkov attended its 25th meeting in Yerevan on Thursday. In Armenia, which on October 10 signed a treaty on acceding to the EEU and prepares to become a full member of the Russian-led bloc beginning on January 1, 2015, the Russian legislator was also asked about the status of Nagorno-Karabakh in the future alliance.
“As soon as the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh is solved, we will be pleased to see it as part of the EEU. As to how it will be solved, whether it is a separate state or part of Armenia, as they say, time will sow,” Ryzhkov said, stressing that, for example, Transnistria, which is a disputed territory in Moldova, cannot become a member of the EEU either because of the same issue with its undetermined status.
Ryzhkov, however, emphasized that Crimea does not have the same kind of problems connected with its status as, according to him, “since ancient times it was primordially Russian land”.
Crimea, where the Russian Empire first established its presence in the 18th century, is an internationally recognized part of independent Ukraine today. Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula in March after a controversial independence referendum in Crimea following the change of government in Kyiv. Neither Ukraine, nor the broader international community has recognized the results of the referendum.
A United Nations resolution passed in March upheld the territorial integrity of Ukraine and declared Crimea’s secession vote invalid. Armenia was among a dozen or so nations that sided with Russia by voting against the resolution.
Nagorno-Karabakh, whose status is currently disputed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, has been regarded as a serious obstacle to Armenia’s accession to the EEU, which besides Russia also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.
At an EEU summit in Astana in May Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev cited a letter from Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, demanding that Armenia join the trade bloc within its “internationally recognized borders”, i.e. without Nagorno-Karabakh, which is de-facto part of Armenia’s economic space today. Armenia did not contest the idea of formally entering the EEU without Nagorno-Karabakh but, at the level of statements by senior politicians and statesmen, rejected the possibility of having customs houses at the de-facto border with the unrecognized republic.
After the October 10 signing of the treaty on Armenia’s accession to the EEU in Minsk, Belarus, Nazarbayev said that “we managed to reach a compromise on the delicate question that we asked [in Astana] about the borders within which Armenia joins the EEU; this question has already been removed.”
The Armenian leadership has not yet elaborated on what kind of ‘compromise’ was reached.
In an interview with Armenia TV on October 12, Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia Shavarsh Kocharian only said that the treaty had no references to the installation of customs checkpoints between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and that trade between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh “will continue the way it is now.”