A planned summit in Yerevan of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has been cancelled after Kazakhstan, one of the Russian-led bloc’s member states, refused to attend it in an apparent show of support for Azerbaijan.
The prime ministers of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were scheduled to hold a regular session of the EEU’s “intergovernmental council” in the Armenian capital on Friday.
A spokeswoman for the EEU’s Moscow-based executive body told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Thursday that the meeting will not take place because Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Karim Masimov refused to attend it. Asked about the reason for the move, the official, Marina Shkurlatova, said: “It’s hard for me to comment because that is the Kazakh side’s decision.”
A spokesman for Masimov also said that he will not attend the Yerevan summit and has proposed Moscow as an alternative venue.
Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian rejected the proposal in a phone call with his Kazakh counterpart on Wednesday. Abrahamian warned that if the other EEU premiers decide to hold the meeting in Moscow he may boycott it.
Presidents Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan also discussed the matter by phone on Wednesday.
The Kazakh government, which currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the EEU, has publicly given no reasons for its stance. Observers believe it wants to move the summit to avoid the impression that Kazakhstan, which has strong linguistic and cultural ties with Azerbaijan, supports Armenia in the Karabakh conflict.
Nazarbayev, who maintains a warm personal rapport with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, already used the Karabakh conflict to try to set conditions for Armenia’s accession to the EEU in 2014. The longtime Kazakh leader demanded that the accession treaty with Yerevan mention Armenia’s internationally recognized borders that do not include Karabakh. The treaty signed later in 2014, contains no such special references.
Armenia, Kazakhstan and two other Central Asian Muslim republics are also part of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Yerevan has repeatedly criticized them for signing up to pro-Azerbaijani declarations on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Sarkisian charged in December that their stance undermines the CSTO’s credibility.