YEREVAN -- Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian says Yerevan has no plans to join a customs union of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan which Moscow hopes could form the basis of a future "Eurasian Union" of former Soviet republics, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed the creation of such a union in a newspaper article published in October. He said it would build on the existing Russian-led customs union, which plans to remove all barriers to trade, capital, and labor movement next year.
Visiting St. Petersburg later in October, Sarkisian said Armenia "positively views" Putin's idea, which is seen by some Kremlin critics as an attempt to recreate the Soviet Union.
But Sarkisian on December 7 all but ruled out the possibility of Yerevan's accession to the union. He argued that Armenia does not have a common border with Russia and other Soviet republics likely to join it.
"The regimes that our colleagues are introducing -- in particular, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan acting within the framework of a common customs zone -- are technically impossible for us to adopt and implement," Sarkisian said.
"In practice, there are no examples of a country joining a customs union with which it has no common border because the whole thing loses its economic meaning [without such a border]," he said.
"At the moment there is no new proposal on the agenda [with Russia] which we have to discuss," he said.
Deep And Comprehensive Trade With EU
Successive Armenian governments have cited the same reason for not joining the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec), a looser grouping of Russia and four other former Soviet republics. Armenia has only observer status in Eurasec.
But Yerevan did sign a multilateral free-trade agreement with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Tajikistan in October.
Sarkisian traveled to St. Petersburg to attend the signing ceremony led by Putin.
The Armenian government insisted afterward that the agreement will not hamper the signing of a similar but more far-reaching free-trade deal with the European Union. EU officials have confirmed this.
Sarkisian flew to Brussels earlier this week to press for the start of official negotiations on the establishment of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between Armenia and the EU.
A government statement cited him as telling EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht that Yerevan has already complied with EU preconditions for those talks.
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