A senior Armenian diplomat has assured lawmakers in Yerevan that Russia does not object to Armenia’s plans to sign a new agreement to deepen its political and economic relations with the European Union.
The accord will substitute for a more far-reaching EU-Armenia Association Agreement which was all but finalized two years ago. Moscow is thought to have scuttled its signing with strong pressure exerted on President Serzh Sarkisian. The latter announced in September 2013 that Armenia will join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union.
Yerevan and Brussels are expected to open soon official negotiations on the new deal that will contain some political and economic provisions of the scrapped Association Agreement. EU leaders effectively gave the green light to those talks at a summit in Riga last week.
Some Armenian opposition deputies wondered on Wednesday whether the Russians will again block closer ties with the EU sought by the Armenian government. “Do we have guarantees that we won’t get more such [Russian] blows?” one of them, Aram Manukian, asked Deputy Foreign Minister Karen Nazarian during parliamentary hearings in Yerevan.
Nazarian sought to dispel these concerns, saying that Armenian diplomats have discussed the matter with their Russian colleagues and heard no objections from them. “There have been consultations and that is a continuous process,” he said. “As you know Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister [Aleksey] Meshkov, who is in charge of Russia-EU relations, was recently in Armenia, and we had a chance to discuss our relations with European structures.
“We are managing our relations with the EU in a very transparent fashion. There are no secrets there.”
“Our partners, including our strategic partners, are informed about our dealings and expectations. So I hope that the [EU-Armenia] process will have a successful course and conclusion this time around,” stressed Nazarian.
The vice-minister would not be drawn on possible dates for the start and completion of the talks with the EU. He said only that he is optimistic about their outcome.
A diplomatic source told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) earlier this week that the talks will likely get underway this summer.
The planned accord will stem from the EU’s Eastern Partnership program covering six ex-Soviet states. Russian leaders have been very critical of the scheme.