YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia and the European Union hope to negotiate within the next few months a comprehensive agreement to deepen their political and economic relations, President Serzh Sarkisian’s office said on Wednesday.
Sarkisian discussed the matter with Herbert Salber, the EU’s special envoy to the South Caucasus, at a meeting in Yerevan.
According to the presidential press service, Sarkisian and Salber agreed that Armenia’s relations with the 28-nation bloc are “dynamically developing.”
“The interlocutors expressed hope that negotiations on the new EU-Armenia framework agreement will be successfully concluded in the coming months,” the presidential press service said in a statement.
The new accord will serve as an alternative to an Association Agreement negotiated by Yerevan and Brussels in the summer of 2013. Sarkisian precluded the signing of that far-reaching agreement with his unexpected decision in September 2013 to seek Armenia’s accession a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states.
The alternative deal is expected to contain many political and even economic provisions of the cancelled Association Agreement. But it will have no free trade-related component due to Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union.
Negotiations on the deal officially began in Brussels last December.
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian and several other senior Armenian government officials discussed progress in those talks at a meeting in Yerevan held late last week. A government statement said Abrahamian instructed them to ensure “the effective conduct of the negotiation process.” The planned accord, he said, “will lay the firm groundwork” for Armenia’s closer ties with the EU.
Statements by official Armenian sources suggested that Salber’s meetings with Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian focused on international efforts to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The Armenian president was reported to brief the EU envoy on further steps in the peace process planned by Armenia and the U.S., Russian and French mediators. He also praised the EU for trying to create a “favorable atmosphere” for a Karabakh settlement.
The Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute also topped the agenda of Salber’s previous trip to Yerevan that took place two months ago.