Citing Russia’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, an opposition parliamentarian put forward on Wednesday a bill that would terminate Armenia’s membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
The pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament made clear that it will block the bill circulated by Khachatur Kokobelian, one of seven lawmakers who voted against Armenia’s entry to the trade bloc in 2014.
Kokobelian, who leads a small party called the Free Democrats, described the EEU as a “failed structure” that cannot give Armenia security guarantees or economic benefits. “By leaving the Eurasian Economic Union Armenia we will get alternative options and be able to integrate with the European family more rapidly,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Kokobelian argued that Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan, widely blamed in Armenia for last week’s heavy fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, continued even after Yerevan precluded in 2013 the signing of an Association Agreement with the European Union and decided to join the EEU instead.
Zaruhi Postanjian, a parliament deputy from another opposition party, Zharangutyun (Heritage), strongly backed the bill. Postanjian said the fighting in Karabakh has demonstrated that government assurances that membership in the EEU will bolster Armenia’s security were unfounded.
Both oppositionists also pointed to the fact that Kazakhstan blocked a planned EEU summit in Yerevan last week in a show of support for Azerbaijan. They condemned Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian for eventually agreeing to attend the summit moved from Yerevan to Moscow.
Gagik Melikian, a parliamentary leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), dismissed these arguments, saying that the parliamentary majority will reject Kokobelian’s initiative.
“Even if we had stayed away from the EEU and signed the Association Agreement with the EU, we would still have had an economic downturn,” said Melikian. “Virtually all countries of the world are going through an economic downturn right now.”
Melikian also defended Abrahamian’s participation in the Moscow meeting held on Wednesday. “I wouldn’t want us to replicate [President Nursultan] Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan and discredit a union which we only recently joined and from which we have expectations,” he said.