Armenia Set to Enter Eurasian Union in October

Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian meets with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Sochi, Russia. July 11, 2014. (Photo: official publication)


YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—A treaty on Armenia’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will be signed in late October, Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian said on Thursday.

Abrahamian did not elaborate on the matter as he spoke with reporters about his recent visit to Russia before the weekly meeting of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia’s executive body.

The head of the Armenian government met with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Sochi on July 11. The focus of the talks was presumably Armenia’s bid to enter the EEU, but no specific date for the signing of the South Caucasus nation’s accession treaty was announced immediately.

Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have agreed on establishing the EEU beginning on January 1, 2015 based on the customs union that the three post-Soviet countries have had since 2011. President Serzh Sarkisian had hoped that Armenia could join the Russian-led trade bloc by the time its transformation into the EEU was announced at a May 29 summit in Astana, but the presidents of the three member states only committed themselves to having the accession treaty with Yerevan drafted by July 1.

The delay stoked more speculation about certain differences among the three members of the customs union regarding Armenia’s membership bid.

Belarus and especially Kazakhstan do not seem to be enthusiastic about Armenia’s entry into their union. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev publicly demanded at the Astana summit that the treaty in question make clear that Armenia is joining the EEU with its internationally recognized borders that do not include Nagorno-Karabakh. This presumably means that the Armenian government might have to start taxing goods imported from Karabakh.

Armenian officials, however, have ruled out such a possibility.

Impact of Armenia’s EEU Membership on Trade Ties ‘Unclear’ to Iran
Iran still has to see what impact Armenia’s planned membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union will have on its trade relations with the South Caucasus neighbor, the Islamic Republic’s ambassador in Yerevan said on Friday, reports RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Speaking at a press conference, Mohammad Reisi said that Iran has a vague idea about the emerging Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan that Armenia plans to join later this year.

The EEU, which is expected to become functional on January 1, 2015, among other things, will imply common economic space of the four former Soviet countries and the application of common customs duties at the border.

“We still don’t know what this economic union is all about, so we cannot make judgments yet,” Reisi said. “When we get the idea of what it is, we will be able to say whether it meets our interests and whether it affects our economic relations [with Armenia].”

The Iranian diplomat also spoke about the possibility of transiting Iranian natural gas to Europe via Armenia. He said that the Armenian government is considering such an option at present.

He did not elaborate as to whether it would require additional capacities considering that the Armenian section of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline has a smaller diameter that apparently makes it inefficient for transit purposes. Many in Armenia believe that using pipes of a smaller diameter in the construction of the section that was completed in 2008 was the demand of Russia, whose state-run energy giant Gazprom owns Armenia’s gas distribution network. That, apparently, would prevent the transit of Iranian gas to Europe and elsewhere through Armenia.

The Iranian ambassador would not be drawn into speculations on this matter. “Maybe at that time [when the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline was under construction] there were no sufficient financial means to build a pipeline with a larger diameter. To be honest, I don’t know the reasons… Maybe at that time there was no intention to transit natural gas to the Black Sea, Europe, elsewhere, and now when there is a demand for that, they must have started to consider this option,” Reisi said.

To the question of RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) whether it was the government of Armenia that was considering that possibility, the Iranian diplomat answered: “All those governments, not only of Armenia, that are interested.”

The Iranian ambassador’s statement is noteworthy in view of the recent statement of Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Ali Majedi. The ISNA news agency quoted the senior official as saying in May that Tehran is ready to export natural gas to Europe via Armenia. He also explained that there were three ways of exporting Iranian gas to Europe: via Turkey; via Armenia, Georgia and the Black sea; and finally, via Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Meanwhile, at today’s press conference the Iranian diplomat also spoke about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Ambassador Reisi said that Iran considers it very unlikely that Armenian-Azerbaijani hostilities will resume in the conflict zone. He once again emphasized that Tehran is against the deployment of any foreign troops in the form of peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Some Armenian media have speculated lately about the possible role of Russia in the latest escalation of tensions around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Some analysts believe this way Russia tries to prepare the ground for introducing its peacekeepers into the conflict zone.

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8 Comments

  1. Hratch said:

    let’s have the details already. What’s so secret that the details are always being avoided?

  2. Hratch said:

    Mother Russia is setting up the stage for complete hegemony. Armenia is poised to be reduced to an toothless oblast while Karabakh will be transferred to the Azeris in return for the latter’s cooperation with the “Union”.

  3. SA said:

    Until the Armenian government wises up, stops pursuing their individual self interests (i.e. accepting bribes), and actively moves the country toward true independence and economic freedom – the country’s future is in the hands of Russia. At any moment, Russia can close Armenia’s borders with Iran and Georgia and it could re-start the war with the Azeri’s – OR WORSE Russia can just decide to annex Armenia just as they did Crimea.

    Armenia’s cancer that is Russia is only growing with this accession to the EEU. Armenia needs to free its entrepreneurs from oligarchic rule so that the people can develop the economy, build exports, and grow the economy. Then they can reduce the exodus of the population, acquire arms from non-Russian sources, and be able to defend the borders themselves.

    Hate to say it, but Iran keeps looking to be our best alternative to Russia. We need to turn the tables and leverage the West, Russia, and Iran against one another to boost our independence from all of them.

    Last comment: the diaspora can play a huge rule. There are only 3 million Armenians in Armenia and 7 million abroad. If each of us visits Armenia & Artsakh just once every 5 years – that implies 1.4MM Armenian tourists annually, a ratio of about 1 tourist to every 2 Armenian residents. With the diaspora’s buying power relative to those living in Armenia, the economic injection of our tourism alone can play a major role to free Armenia from economic dependence on Russia and give the country the resources it needs to expand its economy and buy the arms needed to defend its borders.

    • Hratch said:

      Who is listening to you SA? The oligarchs in Armenia themselves are hostages to Mother Russia. They are oligarchs because they support the Russian agenda in the region. The moment they raise their heads, it will be chopped off. What is better for them, to get their heads chopped off or remain silent and enjoy the benefits? It’s too far gone to change the status quo. Our greed and shortsightedness brought this upon us. This will go down in history as our 21 century tragedy.

    • GeorgeMardig said:

      You keep saying (i.e. accepting bribes) most Europe’s politicians are bought and sold like tomatoes, go see Spain, the whole Royal family is corrupt, Greece, France, the list goes on, don’t be hard on our politicians, this is a plague, but we should be fair with our people.

  4. GB said:

    Nobody knows the proper format for EEU yet, and there is a lot of IF and MAY involved with EEU. Unlike EU, EEU is not well established union, and yet, may work against Armenia’s interest in the future…this is what Iran’s Ambassador to Armenia is concern.

    If Iran’s relationship with EU improve, which is most likely will happen, then position of Armenia as transit country will be questioned by EU members, if Armenia become an EEU member, then Iran politically will be forced to change EU choices, where Russia likes to see that happen, and for sure Armenia will be bypassed!

    This is a political games that Russia and EU countries will play on behalf of Armenia and Iran in the future! The best, for Armenia stay out of EEU and EU as she is today, and no Russian peacekeeping forces in Artsakh, this is not in Iran’s or Europe’s interest! Putin can supply as much as weapon to Axerbaijan if they want!

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