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.