Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev, left, with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan

Pashinyan Welcomes Russian Premier, Eurasian Union Leaders

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia remains committed to its continued membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and broader alliance with Russia, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told his visiting Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, on Monday, April 29.

Pashinyan hosted Medvedev in his private residence ahead of a meeting in Yerevan of the prime ministers of five ex-Soviet states making up the Russian-led trade bloc.

Medvedev is the highest-ranking Russian official to visit Yerevan since last year’s Velvet Revolution which toppled the former Armenian government. In his opening remarks at the informal talks with Pashinyan, he said Armenia and Russia remain “allied countries that have a special history of relations.”

“Now is a very important moment in our relations,” Pashinyan said, for his part. “And I’m sure that contrary to pessimists we will succeed in raising our relations to a new level … I think that we should actually turn pessimists into optimists. We will do everything for that.”

Turning to the EEU, Pashinyan said that membership in the organization is “very important” for Armenia. “We will do everything to make the EEU and our membership in it more effective,” he said.

The Armenian premier likewise stressed the bloc’s significance for his country when he visited Moscow and spoke at the EEU headquarters in January.

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Pashinyan had criticized Armenia’s accession to the EEU and even called for its withdrawal from the bloc when he was opposition to former President Serzh Sarkisian. But immediately after Sarkisian was forced to resign in April 2018 he made clear that he will not pull his country out of the EEU or the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

In an interview with the Moscow-based newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta published last week, Pashinyan admitted that he is still distrusted by “some Russian circles.” He said they are wrong to suspect that the Armenian Velvet Revolution was orchestrated by Western powers. He reiterated that there will be “no fundamental changes” in Armenia’s traditional foreign policy.

Meeting with Medvedev, Pashinyan said Russian-Armenian relations have “developed steadily” since last year’s regime change in Yerevan. Still, he noted the existence of some “issues” in bilateral ties.

One of those contentious issues is coup charges that were brought by the new Armenian authorities last year against former President Robert Kocharyan and Yuri Khachaturov, a retired Armenian army general who was the CSTO’s secretary general at the time. Moscow denounced the charges as politically motivated. Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled his continuing support for Kocharyan after the latter was again arrested in December.

Kocharyan, Khachaturov and two other retired generals are expected to go on trial soon.

Later, on Tuesday, Pashinyan cited Armenia’s growing trade with Russia and other members of the EEU as he hosted a meeting of fellow heads of government from the Russian-led trade bloc.

Speaking at the meeting held in Yerevan, Pashinyan also renewed his calls for the creation of a common EEU market for natural gas and oil mostly extracted in Russia.

“I am happy to note that there is a growth in commercial turnover with between Armenia and the union’s [other] member states,” he said. “EEU countries’ share in Armenia’s exports reached 28.5 percent in 2018.”

“[Armenian] exports to the union’s member states rose by 20 percent while overall trade by 11 percent,” he added.

According to official Armenian statistics, Russia accounted for almost 97 percent of that trade, which totaled around $2 billion last year. Armenia’s exports to Russia soared by almost 20 percent, to $666.5 million. By comparison, Armenia’s trade with the European Union stood at $1.83 billion in 2018.

Pashinyan said that further economic integration of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia requires “the creation of common oil, gas and other hydrocarbon markets.” He said the EU member states should step up their efforts to put their energy cooperation on a “non-discriminatory footing.”

Pashinyan made a similar point when he visited the EEU’s Moscow headquarters in January. He was understood to imply that Russian gas should be as cheap in Russia as it is in Armenia and other EEU members importing it.

Belarus, which is also heavily dependent on Russian gas and oil, has long been advocating this idea.

 

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