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Merkel Praises Armenia’s Delicate Balancing Act


Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Yerevan airport, 24 August 2018.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised Armenia on Friday for developing relations with the European Union while remaining allied to Russia during her first-ever official visit to the South Caucasus country.

“Armenia is a good example of how one can simultaneously cooperate with Russia and the European Union,” she said after talks with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

Merkel arrived in Yerevan as part of a regional tour four months after Pashinian-led mass protests brought down Armenia’s previous government. Pashinian’s press office quoted her as saying at the start of the talks that the “big changes” were unexpected to the German government and “positive” for Armenia.

“Our relations are very good but can deepen further,” Merkel told an ensuing joint news conference with the Armenian premier. She said Germany would specifically welcome closer commercial and cultural ties with Armenia.

Merkel also pledged to help Yerevan implement its landmark Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the EU signed last November.

Pashinian said that just like the former Armenian government his administration is committed to stepping up cooperation with the EU while remaining part of the Russian-led alliances and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in particular. The Armenian foreign policy strategy is “totally understandable” to Berlin, he said.

Armenia - German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies in Yerevan, 24 August 2018.
Armenia - German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies in Yerevan, 24 August 2018.

At his meeting with Merkel, Pashinian was reported to renew his calls for the EU to reward the new Armenian government’s ambitious reform agenda and anti-corruption efforts with greater financial assistance. Earlier this summer he criticized the EU for not rushing to do that.

Merkel said she discussed with Pashinian domestic Armenian politics and “anti-corruption issues.” But in her public remarks she said nothing about the possibility of greater EU or German aid to Yerevan.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in late June that Berlin stands ready to help Armenia’s new government carry out sweeping reforms. “We have followed social change in the country with great interest and will support its reform efforts,” Maas said after talks with his visiting Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanian.

Germany has already been Armenia’s number one EU donor. Pashinian emphasized the fact that it is also his country’s third largest trading partner. Armenians, he said, have “great respect for Germany, the German people and Angela Merkel personally.”

The German leader, who also met with President Armen Sarkissian on Friday, was noncommittal on the lifting of the EU’s visa requirements for Armenian nationals sought by both the current and former authorities in Yerevan. She noted that she spoke with Pashinian about scores of Armenians seeking asylum in Germany. “We cooperate in this area quite well but more can be done,” she said without elaborating.

The unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was also on the agenda of the talks, with both leaders calling for its peaceful resolution. Merkel will proceed to Baku on Saturday for talks with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.

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