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Armenia, EU To Discuss Free-Trade Deal

YEREVAN -- Armenia has agreed with the European Union to map out a process that could lead to the signing of a free-trade agreement, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The decision could represent a breakthrough for the Eastern Partnership, a program offering six former Soviet republics closer EU integration in return for political and economic reforms.

The program is expected to launch in May.

Armenian Economy Minister Nerses Yeritsian told RFE/RL that the new policies will change the country, and he expects "quite serious progress" in EU-Armenian negotiations.

European Commission members and Armenian officials scheduled the talks, which will take place over the next three to five years, and discussed the legislative and institutional reforms required to qualify Armenia for privileged trade with the EU.

The EU has long been Armenia's largest trading partner, accounting for 35 percent of its external trade last year. Trade turnover in 2008 was $1.94 billion.