YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Official Yerevan has scoffed at reports that Turkey would like to sign a free-trade deal with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), pointing to the long-running Turkish economic blockade of Armenia.
The Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci as saying on Friday that Ankara is seeking to open negotiations on a “customs agreement” with the EEU in an effort to expand Turkey’s commercial ties with Russia.
“A free trade agreement between Russia and Turkey will lead to a new level of partnership,” Zeybekci told a business forum held in the Turkish city of Izmir. He said it would not run counter to his country’s customs union with the European Union established in 1995.
Armenia, which joined the EEU in 2015, was quick to react to the Turkish minister’s reported statement. “First of all, the EEU’s founding treaty does not provide for a possibility of joining the EEU customs area,” Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian said on Saturday.
“Furthermore, it is ridiculous that the talk of joining the EEU customs area is coming from Turkey, which unilaterally closed [in 1993] the Turkish-Armenian border — the only land border between Turkey and the EEU customs area,” Kocharian added in written comments.
Turkey has kept the border closed and refused to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia out of solidarity with Azerbaijan, its closest regional ally. Successive governments in Ankara have made the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations conditional on a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Baku. Yerevan rejects this linkage.
The Armenpress news agency quoted another, unnamed official from the Armenian Foreign Ministry as warning that any deal between Turkey and the Russian-led trade bloc would have to be backed by all EEU member states, including Armenia.
Russian government officials have not yet publicly commented on the possibility of such a deal with Ankara.
Last year, Armenia vetoed Pakistan’s request for an observer status in the Parliamentary Assembly of another Russian-dominated alliance of ex-Soviet states: the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Armenian officials argued that Pakistan refuses to not only establish diplomatic relations with Armenia but also formally recognize the latter as an independent state.
Just like Turkey, Pakistan has always fully and unconditionally supported Azerbaijan in the Karabakh conflict, accusing Armenia of military aggression against its Muslim neighbor.