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Armenia Ready To Join Russia's Customs Union By Mid-April

Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian called on Armenians to "accept" the nation's upcoming membership in the Russia-led customs union.
Armenia says it will be ready to join a Russia-led customs union within weeks.

Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian said in Yerevan on March 1 that his country will accomplish all necessary tasks by mid-April in order to join the CIS Customs Union, which also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Kocharian said the Armenian parliament will debate the customs-union agreement after the document is approved by Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

The leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress coalition, former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, although he described Armenia's upcoming membership in the Russia-led customs union as "irreversible," criticized the government's handling of the decision.

He asked why the authorities had spent three years negotiating with the European Union on an Association Agreement, only to back out at the last moment.

Ter-Petrossian was speaking on March 1 to thousands of people who gathered in central Yerevan to commemorate the deaths of 10 people in 2008 during deadly postelection clashes between Armenian security forces and protesters.

Ter-Petrossian said Armenia needed to lean toward Russia because joining the European Union does not appear to feasible for the country at the current time.

Ter-Petrossian said Armenia was a small country that "cannot afford a civil war."

Armenia announced its intention to join the union in September and chose, in late November, not to initial an Association Agreement with the European Union.

With reporting by Interfax and Voice of Russia