Oskanian Says Armenia to Seek EU Membership

(RFE/RL)–Securing membership in the European Union will be one of the long-term goals of Armenia’s foreign policy–Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian announced on December 26.

"We believe that it is time for the European Union and its member countries to formulate a clear stance on the Caucasus and determine whether they are prepared to see the Caucasus as part of the EU some time in the future," Oskanian told a news conference. It was the first time that a senior Armenian official publicly unveiled his country’s EU aspirations. However–it is understood that official Yerevan has no plans to file a formal membership application to Brussels for the time being.

Oskanian said Armenia’s most immediate task is to have EU member countries agree "in principle" to such a prospect. He said Yerevan will raise the issue with EU Foreign Affairs Chief Javier Solana and Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lind during their visit to the Armenian capital scheduled for next February. Sweden will hold the EU’s rotating presidency beginning next month. Armenia and neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan are bound by "partnership and cooperation agreemen’s" with the EU that took effect in June 1999 and are supposed to deepen political and economic links between them. Oskanian expressed hope that Armenia’s impending accession to the Council of Europe will be the first step towards its integration with other European structures which the present Armenian authorities say is one of their chief priorities in the international arena.

The foreign minister also said that the administration of President Robert Kocharian has remained faithful to its "complementary" foreign policy in the past year–developing close ties with the United States–Europe–Russia–Iran and other states. He said Armenia remains committed to continued involvement in the Commonwealth of Independent States–describing it as a "viable" organization. Oskanian went on to criticize the so-called GUUAM grouping of five former Soviet republics–including Azerbaijan–Georgia and Ukraine–seen as a counterweight to Moscow–saying that GUUAM’s activities hamper "CIS processes."All GUUAM countries are members of the CIS and can pursue their common goals within that framework," he said


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