YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Kazakhstan does not object to Armenia’s membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the Kazakh ambassador in Yerevan insisted on Wednesday.
“Kazakhstan has a very positive attitude to Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union,” Ayimdos Bozjigitov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview. “The president of Kazakhstan signed a roadmap to that membership. So there is no opposition.”
Bozjigitov denied in that regard any political reasons for the apparent delay in Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, which is currently transformed into the EEU. “This is a technical process that takes time,” he said.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev stoked speculation about his opposition to Yerevan’s membership bid with his public remarks made at a Customs Union summit in Astana last May. Citing a letter from his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, Nazarbayev said the EEU’s accession treaty with Armenia must contain a special reference to Armenia’s internationally recognized borders that do not encompass Nagorno-Karabakh.
Bozjigitov downplayed that demand, which is widely regarded in Armenia as embarrassing for Sarkisian. “The summit took place in Astana, and it was obviously coordinated by the president of Kazakhstan,” he said. “That is why he received the letter [from Aliyev.] I don’t know if Serzh Sarkisian was aware of that letter [beforehand,] but letters can be sent by different heads of state.”
“Your president has said that Armenia is joining the Customs Union with its internationally recognized borders,” added the diplomat.
The Armenian government has also made clear that it will not set up checkpoints on Armenia’s border with Karabakh to start levying duties from goods imported from the disputed territory. It hopes that the accession treaty with the EEU will be signed in October.
Nazarbayev apparently discussed this issue with Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus in Minsk on Tuesday. The Kazakh news agency Tengrinews quoted Nazarbayev as saying afterwards that they plan to “solve the issue of admitting Armenia and Kyrgyzstan to the EEU” at a summit scheduled for October.
“I don’t think that we will not sign [the treaty] this year,” Sarkisian said after meeting Putin in Sochi on August 11.
Speaking to journalists last Saturday, the Armenian president acknowledged that not all EEU member states are “happy” to admit Armenia. “We are a small country with problems, and it is only natural that our accession to any union creates certain problems for members of that union.”
“On the other hand, it’s not that Customs Union members do not want our membership,” added Sarkisian.
Belarus’s Lukashenko has also repeatedly signaled misgivings about the Armenian membership. He told Putin on August that it “must not occur to the detriment of the Customs Union’s interests.”