The new agreement between Armenia and the European Union is “our joint achievement” that can become “a positive precedent for other cooperation projects”, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian stated on Friday as he attended an Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels.
“We consider 2017 as, indeed, one of the important milestones in the quarter-century-long history of the relations between Armenia and the EU, which is signified today under the framework of this Summit by signing of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement. It is a comprehensive document that reflects the significant developments of the recent period of our collaboration and defines the guidelines that are necessary to deepen these relations,” Sarkisian said, as quoted by his press office.
The agreement known as the CEPA commits Armenia to reforming its institutions and strengthening human rights protection with the assistance of the EU. The 350-page document does not make Armenia part of a “deep and comprehensive free trade area”, but still commits Yerevan to “approximating” Armenian economic laws and regulations to those of the EU.
“This Agreement is not merely a legal document, but a reflection on the wealth of values of human rights and fundamental freedoms that we share. Important elements of the strengthening of democracy such as rule of law, consolidation of judiciary, development of public and social institutes, good governance are the core of this Agreement. The efficient realization of these elements is of vital importance for our nation in order to implement successfully the envisaged reforms. It is exactly the development based on these shared values that ensures the long-lasting and sustainable development for any responsible member of the international community,” the Armenian leader said shortly before the official signing ceremony scheduled for the evening.
According to Sarkisian, the importance of the Agreement is not limited to just Armenia-EU relations. “Many of our international counterparts describe Armenia as a nation that brings various integration processes closer to each other, a nation that is led by the desire to reconcile and complement interests in the spirit of cooperation and cohabitation, and it is something that seriously obliges us to meet the expectation,” he said.
Sarkisian went on to say that Armenia is one of those EU partners that have managed to “almost fully implement commitments undertaken in 2015” under the Joint Declaration of the Riga Summit. “We believe that Armenia’s determination in this process, as well as the determination of our EU partners will soon result in further bringing our societies closer together, for which, of course, launching of the visa liberalization dialogue would be of great significance,” he said.
In his statement, Sarkisian scolded his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev who, he claimed, “has voiced ill-grounded accusations against Armenia.”
“As much as the Azerbaijani side may try to distort and misinterpret the essence of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and its peaceful settlement, the conflict has to be settled on the basis of three principles of international law: the non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity and the peoples’ right to self-determination as proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, which is the only structure vested with an international mandate,” the Armenian president emphasized.
“The position of the international community on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is reflected in the statements issued by the leaders of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries. In this context, any solution to the conflict without the exercise of Nagorno-Karabakh people’s right to self-determination is simply impossible.”
Armenia and Azerbaijan have reportedly been at odds over language in the final declaration of the summit concerning Nagorno-Karabakh. One paragraph concerning conflicts in the region had been left open for the two South Caucasus neighbors to agree on compromise wording.
EU diplomats told RFE/RL that they wanted neutral wording in the statement and to omit any mention of specific conflicts in the Eastern Partnership countries, citing squabbles between Baku and Yerevan over the 2015 declaration that delayed the summit by several hours.
The current text of the final declaration reads: “The summit participants call for renewed efforts to promote the peaceful settlement of conflicts in the region on the basis of the principles and norms of international law.” It adds that “the resolution of the conflicts, building trust and good neighborly relations are essential to economic and social development and cooperation.”