YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Deputy Economy Minister Karine Minasian, who has coordinated Armenia’s intensive membership talks with the Russian-led Customs Union, was dismissed on Tuesday for reasons that were not immediately clear.
A statement released by the Armenian government said Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian relieved Minasian of her duties “in accordance with her request.” It did not elaborate.
Minasian is widely regarded as a member of former Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s inner circle of liberal economists who held senior government positions during his six-year tenure. Virtually all of them, including Economy Minister Vahram Avanesian, lost their posts after Sarkisian unexpectedly stepped down in early April.
Minasian was tasked with handling trade-related negotiations with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan shortly after President Serzh Sarkisian decided to make Armenia part of their Customs Union last August. She also coordinated the implementation of Yerevan’s “roadmap” to joining the trade bloc that was agreed with its three member states in December.
Both Avanesian and Minasian said early this year that the accession talks will be completed by the end of April. The negotiation process is still going on, however. Speaking during and after a Customs Union summit in Astana on May 29, President Sarkisian said there are still “two or three technical issues” relating to trade that need to be agreed upon.
Armenia’s quick accession to the bloc currently transformed into the Eurasian Economic Union has also been called into question by a last-minute political condition publicly set by Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the Astana summit.
Nazarbayev said that a separate accession treaty with Armenia must make an explicit reference to its internationally recognized borders. He said Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev demanded this in a letter sent to the heads of the union’s three founding member states.
“This is how you joined the World Trade Organization,” Nazarbayev told Sarkisian. “There is a precedent.”
Minasian was among senior Armenian officials who accompanied Sarkisian during his trip to the Kazakh capital.