Armenian Foreign Policies 2013: Customs Union, U-turn on EU accord,
Karabakh, Turkey, regional developments

http://www.armenianow.com/news/51015/armenia_foreign_policies_2013
NEWS | 30.12.13 | 12:08

By NAIRA HAYRUMYAN
ArmeniaNow correspondent


2013 became a milestone year for Armenia not only in its foreign, but
also domestic politics. After nearly four years of negotiations with
the European Union over the signing of an association agreement on
September 3 Armenia unexpectedly announced its intention to join the
Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

This decision has had its influence not only on Armenia proper, but
also on the processes elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Inspired by
Armenia's decision, Russia stepped up its pressure on Ukraine, which
suspended the process of signing of the Association Agreement with the
EU one week before the Vilnius summit of Eastern Partnership. As a
result, on November 29 such agreements were initialed only by Moldova
and Georgia.

During the year there has been an ongoing debate in Armenia and other
post-Soviet countries about whether it is expedient `to revive a new
Soviet empire' under the name of a Eurasian Union. But at the end of
the year plans to create such a union remain relevant - in May 2014
Armenia is going to be one of the six founders of the Eurasian Union
(along with Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan).

Before September 3, Armenia was actively engaged with Europe, stating
about shared values and `civilizational' approaches. Armenia even
dared reproach Russia for selling offensive weapons to Azerbaijan.

After September 3, however, Armenia suddenly remembered its
centuries-old friendship with Russia as well as Russia's `salutary'
role. Pro-Russian rhetoric increased and some even stated the
readiness to return to the Russian Empire. In particular, publicist
Zori Balayan wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin,
mentioning the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813, according to which, as a
result of the Russian-Persian war, Persia renounced claims to Karabakh
that went under Russia's control.

The Russia-West struggle for post-Soviet countries, including for
Armenia, in 2013 came out of its passive phase and acquired the
character of an open confrontation. In the course of this battle all
methods were employed - from economic blackmail to high-level visits.
In particular, thevisit by Putin to Armenia on December 2, as some
analysts say, marked Armenia's losing another portion of its
sovereignty and security to Russia.

There have been some new developments in the Karabakh settlement
process as well. In particular, on November 19, in Vienna, the
presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev,
met for the first time in almost two years. During the meeting some
new proposals were apparently discussed. The talks were confidential,
but on the basis of available information experts assume that Russia
and Turkey are promoting the project of opening the Turkish-Armenian
border at the expense of Armenia's concessions on two districts around
Karabakh. The U.S. and Europe appear to insist on settlement and
opening of communications while maintaining the current status quo in
Karabakh.

Partially this version was confirmed on the eve of Turkish Foreign
Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's visit to Yerevan on December 12 (he was
attending a regional organization's forum in the Armenian capital).
The Turkish press openly reported the offer from Turkey, but President
Sargsyan did not receive Davutoglu, while Minister Edward Nalbandian
stated that preconditions are unacceptable in Armenian-Turkish
normalization.

The sudden change in the policy of Armenia, according to analysts,
could lead to some adjustments in the positions of Armenia on
relations with Turkey. At the beginning of 2013 Yerevan set up a
commission to study possible legal claims to Turkey. The body was
headed by the then Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepyan. It was
followed by assumptions that in 2015, when the 100th anniversary of
the Armenian Genocide will be marked, Armenia, with the support of the
West, intends to advance serious claims to Turkey. However, the
commission has not yet taken any public steps, and after September 3
decisions on claims to Turkey may already be made through Moscow.

Turkey has made no secret of its concern, especially in connection
with the probability of combined Kurdish and Armenian claims. In this
regard, Turkey has launched a wide-ranging process of reconciliation
with the Kurds. 2013 became auspicious also for the Kurdish movement
as the prospect of establishing Kurdistan became even closer.

The agreement on the conflict in Syria became an important event of
the year also for Armenia in view of the sizable ethnic Armenian
community in this Middle Eastern country. In accordance with this
agreement, the world power centers decided not to support any side in
the Syrian conflict, to destroy Syria's chemical weapons and lead the
country to democratic elections in 2014.

An even more significant agreement was reached by the end of the year
on Iran's nuclear program, which immediately led to the lifting of a
number of sanctions that had been imposed on the Islamic Republic by
the West and its activation in regional politics. In particular, Iran
immediately tried to offer natural gas to Armenia that would
apparently be less expensive than Russia's. Projects in energy and
communication sectors have also become more relevant in view of the
recent developments and Armenia may play an important role in them.



From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress