YEREVAN—President Serzh Sarkisian’s absence from a summit of leaders from Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan taking place in the Belarus capital of Minsk where he was expected to complete Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union has raised questions, with various government agencies merely reaffirming Armenia’s commitment to join the Russia-led union.
While presidential spokesperson Armand Saghatelyan made a vague statement confirming that Sarkisian was in Yerevan, the Moscow-based Regnum news agency, citing sources at the Armenian presidential office, reported that Sarkisian did not attend the summit because of Kazakhstan’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh.
In December, Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev raised questions about Armenia’s membership in the Custom Union calling into question the definition of its border and whether the envisioned membership also included the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
“The ‘road map’ on Armenia has generally been agreed. I think we can adopt it. However, the question of the border of the Customs Union and where it will cross in Armenia in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains open. Therefore, we will sign the ‘road map’ together with colleagues, but with the dissenting opinion, which will be reported on,” Nazarbayev said at the time, saying that Azerbaijan should have a say in Armenia’s membership.
This unresolved issue, as well as what sources identified to Regnum as unresolved issues between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan could be prompting Armenia to not attend the summit.
Last week, Armenia’s outgoing economy minister Vahram Avanesyan, signaled that Armenia may wait until the three countries sign a Eurasian Union trade agreement, at which time Armenia will join that bloc rather than the Customs Union.
Asked about the reason for the no-show, Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan said only that the leaders of the Customs Union’s three member states will be briefed by the head of the trade bloc’s executive body on the implementation of a “roadmap” to Armenia’s membership. Balayan did not comment further, reported RFE/RL.