Sargisian Statements Seen as Rejection of Russian Demands

By Naira Hayrumyan

YEREVAN (ArmeniaNow) — While on his tour of South America last week, Armenian President Serge Sargisian gave an interview to the Argentine newspaper La Nacion, in which he stated that “the people of Armenia are concerned over the sale of Russian weapons to Azerbaijan.”

At the same time, the Armenian leader expressed hope that Russia would help Armenia at this difficult moment. Nevertheless, Sargisian’s statement was regarded by some analysts as an attempted stand over the latest Russian demands.

During the same time, Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan paid a visit to Russia. He met with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Sochi on July 11. Despite expectations, the meeting did not bring clarity into the terms of Armenia’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Moreover, Minister of Trade of the Eurasian Economic Commission Andrew Slepnyov said that one of the main “stumbling blocks” in Armenia’s entry into the EEU are the differences in obligations to the World Trade Organization (WTO) that Armenia and Russia have. In this connection, some transitional period will be set and during this period accession to the Customs Union of a WTO member with different obligations will be settled, said Slepnyov. The Armenian side has not made any statements about the “transitional period.”

For his part, Speaker of the Armenian Parliament Galust Sahakyan, who visited Moscow last week, stated that “even the press has noticed” the contradictions among the three members of the emerging EEU, hinting at the fact that it was the position of Belarus and Kazakhstan that does not allow Armenia to be a member of the EEU sooner. At the same time, he officially stated that there can be no customs checkpoints between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh — something that Customs Union member-countries demand.

Besides, earlier this month Yerevan hosted a conference of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), during which a Russian proposal on the introduction of peacekeeping troops into Karabagh was clearly expressed. But Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan stated that the Armenian forces themselves maintain the truce in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict zone and that there is no need for third forces.

In fact, last week Armenia rejected three proposals of Russia — on the introduction of peacekeepers, on the rejection of the OSCE Minsk Group format and on the installation of customs check points between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh. Also at the level of the president, Armenia expressed its discontent with the Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan. This looks like hardening of the position and willingness to reconsider the basis of Russian-Armenian relations that have so far been built on Russia’s expansionist policy and Armenia’s constant concessions.

Political analyst Richard Giragosian described the statement by Sargisian as “somewhat belated.” Russia has already sold a large amount of weapons to Azerbaijan, besides, escalation is growing along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border — there are more frequent sabotage raids and shooting incidents, the number of victims has increased. Armenian analysts speculate about a possible deal between Russia and Azerbaijan on the following scenario — Baku provokes a “creeping war of sabotage raids,” Armenia appeals to Russia for help and Russia introduces its peacekeepers without the mandate of the OSCE and the UN and stations them so that some of the territories controlled by Karabagh today get under Azeri control.

In one of the points of his joint statement with the president of Uruguay, Armenian President Sargisian emphasized, however, that the Karabagh settlement should take place “only and only within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.”