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Hollande Says Armenia Can Reach EU Accord, Join Russian-Led Customs Union

French President Francois Hollande (right) alongside Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian at the start of an official visit to Yerevan on May 12.
French President Francois Hollande is urging the EU to find a way to enter into an Association Agreement with Armenia despite Yerevan’s plans to join a Russian-led Customs Union.

Speaking to RFE/RL on May 12 after his arrival in Yerevan, Hollande said the EU should seek and accept a "specific model for Armenia."

But he said Brussels and Yerevan must work together, and that it would be "compulsory" to "yield" on issues related to the Russian-led Customs Union -- which currently includes Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.

“Europe must accept an agreement about an association with Armenia and Armenia can go with a trade-commercial union with Russia,” Hollande told RFE/RL. “It’s not a problem for me. It will be possible to have the two issues [but it is] compulsory to yield about the commercial union. We must work [on] this scenario.”

Hollande arrived in Yerevan late on May 12 after a visit to Baku and talks there with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

In Baku, he said that his tour of the South Caucasus region is aimed at promoting a settlement to ongoing disputes between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh -- as well as territorial disputes over Georgia’s breakaway regions.

He said that France supports the "territorial integrity of countries and the resolution of conflicts within their territorial integrity."

"The visit to the Caucasus is not aimed against anyone," he said. "Our purpose is to contribute to developing relations between Europe and independent partners. We don't want to prevent someone from cooperating with anyone."

Hollande also said that his visit to the South Caucasus would include consultations with leaders in the regions on the Ukrainian crisis.

After completing talks with Armenian officials in Yerevan on May 13, Hollande plans to travel on to Tbilisi on May 13 for talks with Georgian officials.
Interview by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service correspondent Ruzanna Stepanian in Yerevan; with reporting by RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service
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