ASTANA—President Serzh Sarkisian announced Thursday Armenia’s readiness to join the Eurasian Economic Union on June 15, but was quickly rebuffed by Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev, who mandated that Armenia define its borders before being allowed to sign any agreement.
Nazarbayev was doing Baku’s bidding. The Kazakh leader cited a letter penned by Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, in which he addresses the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan urging the three founding members of the Eurasian Union to insist that Armenia declare its borders “as recognized by the UN” before being allowed to join the newly-minted group.
“One question which could be settled later. It is not too pleasant for us. But to apply what you applied in accession to WTO,” Nazarbayev told Sarkisian Thursday, after the official signing of the Eurasian Economic Agreement. “This is how you joined the World Trade Organization,” Nazarbayev added. “There is a precedent.”
While the Eurasian Union provisions do not mandate adherence to UN-recognized borders, nor was there discussion on Crimea, which is entering the union with Russia, Kazakhstan, nevertheless, seemed obliged to include Baku’s demands in the process.
Opposition forces in Yerevan called Nazarbayev’s pressures on Yerevan “humiliating,” while Armenian officials did not immediately comment on the matter, scrambling to reassure that there will not be a customs border between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
The only government official to comment on the matter was Deputy Economy Minister Garegin Melkonian who told RFE/RL on Friday that: “Our accession to the WTO [in 2003] did not affect de facto or formally or in any other way Armenia’s relations and projects with Nagorno-Karabakh.” He added that the WTO never required Armenia to set up customs checkpoints on its border with Karabakh.
Armenia’s Education Minister Armen Ashotian, who is also the vice-president of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia was quoted by RFE/RL as saying: “I am confident that Armenia’s authorities will not make any decisions at the expense of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”