The European Union’s foreign and security policy chief, Federica Mogherini, reportedly spoke in favor of “firmer cooperation” between Brussels and Yerevan as she paid an official visit to Armenia on Tuesday.
As quoted by the Armenian Foreign Ministry’s press office, Mogherini, who is also vice-president of the European Commission, said at a meeting with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian that such relations would be beneficial also for the entire region.
Minister Nalbandian, in his turn, said that Mogherini’s visit “will surely have a positive impact on the development and deepening of Armenia-EU relations.”
In December, Brussels and Yerevan opened official negotiations on a new legal framework of their relations that, while expected to be less ambitious that the Association Agreement nearly signed by the two sides in 2013, is likely to contain quite a few political and economic provisions of that aborted deal.
The planned deal, however, will have no free trade-related clauses that were a key element of the would-be Association Agreement. Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian made the signing of that agreement impossible when he unexpectedly decided in September 2013 to join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The volte-face is thought to have resulted from strong Russian pressure exerted on Yerevan.
Armenian and EU officials have said that other political and economic provisions of the Association Agreement not contradicting Armenia’s membership in the EEU will be incorporated into the planned deal.
During the Yerevan meeting today the parties reportedly also discussed other concerns, including regional conflicts.
Nalbandian and Mogherini, in particular, addressed the situation in Syria, with the top Armenian diplomat stressing that since the start of the conflict in this Middle Eastern country Armenia has accepted about 20,000 refugees. Virtually all of these refugees are ethnic Armenians.
“Thus, our country is the third country in Europe by the number of accepted [Syrian] refugees per capita,” Nalbandian stressed.
The two officials also discussed the Karabakh conflict settlement, with Mogherini reportedly reaffirming EU support for the OSCE Minsk Group format of the peace talks.
Nalbandian, for his part, reaffirmed Armenia’s commitment to seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Mogherini addressed the Karabakh conflict settlement also during her February 29 meeting with the Azerbaijani leadership in Baku.
While in Armenia today, the EU official also held meetings with leading members of local political parties and civil society representatives.
In the evening, she also meet with President Serzh Sarkisian. According to the presidential press service, President Sarkisian and EU High Representative Mogherini discussed “issues related to bilateral Armenia-EU relations as well as current international problems, regional developments, challenges and prospects.”
Sarkisian emphasized that Armenia is going to proceed with the reforms launched in different spheres, at the same time highly evaluating EU assistance in their realization.
The two also addressed the Karabakh peace process.
At a joint press conference with Armenian Foreign Minister Nalbandian held at the Presidential Palace later on Tuesday, Mogherini reportedly said that a peaceful resolution of the conflict was a priority.