MOSCOW TALKS FALLOUT: ARMENIAN POLITICAL PARTIES REACT TO YEREVAN'S DECISION TO JOIN RUSSIA-LED CUSTOMS UNION

NEWS | 04.09.13 | 12:42

By SIRANUYSH GEVORGYAN
ArmeniaNow reporter

Representatives of some political parties in Armenia have already
reacted to the Tuesday announcement of the government's decision for
the country to join the Russia-led Customs Union.

Of them, so far only representatives of the opposition Heritage Party
have pronounced categorically against the prospect.

In a joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin following
their talks in Moscow on Tuesday Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan
announced that Armenia has decided to join the Customs Union and
later participate in the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union, a
Russia-led economic integration project at this moment also involving
Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Heritage Party representative Stepan Safaryan believes that "the
unexpected announcement of the intent to join the Customs Union not
only jeopardizes Armenia's independence (as no one is so naive as to
believe that the Eurasian Economic Union is a purely economic and
not a geopolitical project), but also deprives Armenia of its best
prospect of entering European markets and space, and, furthermore,
of the possibility of having a more sustainable and democratic state."

"And it is Russia and not Armenia that will gain from the big
geopolitical game. Economically, Armenia will not gain anything more
than it can get from Russia today," added Safaryan.

Meanwhile, Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for the ruling Republican
Party of Armenia (RPA), says that Armenia continues to remain committed
to European integration and deepening strategic relations with Russia
and joining the Customs Union does not mean that Armenia gives up
its dialogue with European structures.

The RPA's former coalition partner, Prosperous Armenia (PAP), still
refrains from expressing its formal position on the development,
even though in the past the party appeared to favor Armenia's move
towards the Customs Union. The party's spokesman, MP Tigran Urikhanyan
says the PAP will express its official position only after having
relevant discussions.

The decision to join the Customs Union was taken with great enthusiasm
by one of its ardent advocates in Armenia, the Constitutional Rights
Union party (CRU). Its chairman Hayk Babukhanyan is a deputy elected
on the RPA proportional list and is a member of the RPA parliament
faction at present. The CRU believes that this decision meets Armenia's
best state and national interests.

"In the Eurasian Union Armenia not only will maintain its security
system, but will also be able to develop its economy, culture, and
preserve national identity, will keep away from alien elements,
anti-national manifestations and impositions. The platform of
Eurasian civilization is closer and more understandable to us,"
says Babakhanyan.

The opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) and the Armenian
Revolutionary Federation (ARF) have not expressed their official
positions on the matter yet. Member of the ANC faction, chairwoman
of the Social-Democratic Hunchak Party Lyudmila Sargsyan (no relation
to the president) only said that cooperation with Russia needs to be
expanded in all areas, but before making the decision on joining the
Customs Union the issue should have been discussed with the people
and the country's political forces.

Armenia's former foreign minister, opposition figure Alexander
Arzumanyan told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that the decision is
"totally unacceptable" for Armenia. He said President Sargsyan owes
an explanation when he returns to Armenia.

Meanwhile, a new Facebook group opposed to Armenia's joining the
Customs Union has been created. It called on all people who are against
the move to converge for a protest in Baghramyan Avenue in Yerevan
(where the Presidential Palace is situated) on Wednesday afternoon.