YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenia will not start levying any duties from goods imported from Nagorno-Karabakh after joining Russia’s Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, a senior Armenian official reiterated on Wednesday.
“One thing is clear: there can be no customs border between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh under any circumstances,” Artak Zakarian, the pro-government chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations, told reporters in Yerevan.
Zakarian spoke after a public video conference with officials in Moscow, Minsk and Astana that discussed Armenia’s membership in the Russian-led union. Anton Azarov, a senior official from the union’s executive body, the Eurasian Economic Commission, made clear that the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) will not be part of the trade bloc.
This presumably means that Armenia will have to set up customs posts on its border with the NKR and collect import duties from products made in Karabakh. Armenian leaders have repeatedly ruled out such a possibility. Some of them have hinted that Moscow tacitly supports Yerevan on the issue.
Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev cited the uncertain legal status of that border when he voiced reservations about the Armenian membership bid at a Customs Union summit in December. Three days later, a senior Azerbaijani official said that Baku strongly objects to that membership because of the continuing “Armenian occupation” of Azerbaijani lands.
It is not clear whether this is one of the reasons why the signing of Armenia’s accession treaty with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, initially slated for last month, was delayed. Meeting in Minsk on April 29, the presidents of the three member states instructed the Eurasian Economic Commission to draft the treaty by June 1.
Both Zakarian and Azarov confirmed that the date of its signing has not been determined yet.