Armenia ‘Willing to Continue EU Cooperation’

Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian

YEREVAN (Radiolur)—Armenia is ready to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan told reporters Thursday, noting that years of arduous work has been done in that direction.

He added, however, that the provisions of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) are seemingly incompatible with membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union, and that the two cannot be combined.

After years of negotiations with the EU, and just months away from becoming a signatory of the DCFTA, the Armenian government announced a surprise, turnabout decision to join the Eurasian Customs Union instead, after a meeting on Tuesday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian.

Armenia has no shared border with any of the countries of the Eurasian Customs Union, a main issue that raised heated discussion. According to Shavarsh Kocharyan, however, experts have found solutions that will mitigate the possible losses Armenia might incur by joining the Customs Union.

The Deputy Foreign Minister assured that the move was not a surprise to Europe, as it was well aware there could be such a development.

Kocharyan says Armenia will continue to cooperate with the European Union much as before, with the exception of the DCFTA.

“The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area is now becoming increasingly incompatible with the Customs Union,” Kocharyan said. “We are ready to maintain all other programs with the EU, the format of cooperation of which is under discussion. We’re willing to sign the Association Agreement and continue the implementation of reforms,” Kocharyan said.

Shavarsh Kocharyan said he has not heard any strict assessment from the European Union yet.

The Deputy Foreign Minister reiterated his opinion that countries “lose the opportunity of independent decision-making” to a certain extent by joining the Eurasian Customs Union. This has been the case with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan and is related to customs policy and tariffs. Shavarsh Kocharyan considers this normal and added that this does not mean “complete loss of sovereignty.”

Artsakh is the red line his government will never cross, Kocharyan said, and assured there could never be a customs regime between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

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