Russia-Armenia talks have 'invisible' participants: expert

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-12-1 16:28:27

Russian President Vladimir Putin's upcoming visit to Armenia pursues objectives much wider than those within the bilateral framework, with other countries and blocks invisibly "participating" in the talks, a local expert has said.

Putin is due to visit Armenian cities of Gyumri and Yerevan on Monday and Tuesday.

Close relations between Moscow and Yerevan are of great importance to both sides due to Armenia's geopolitical location, Arkady Dubnov, an expert in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) affairs said.

"Armenia is the only CIS country where Russia maintains its military base since Soviet times, and Yerevan insists that the base remain there for ever," said Dubnov, pointing out the vital importance of Russian military presence for the security of the South Caucasian country.

For Russia, the 102nd military base with 5,000 personnel in service has been the only one which serves as an outpost against NATO's member Turkey and other potential threats from southern direction, he said.

For Armenia, an alliance with Russia is the only guarantee of its security in a hostile surrounding involving Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a bitter dispute over the mountainous Nagorno-Karabagh region, which Armenian-backed forces seized in 1991. The two sides have been holding peace talks mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group since 1994.

The expert noted that Putin and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan could sign a formal agreement on Armenia's accession to the Russia-led Customs Union (CU) and, later, to the Eurasian Union expected to be set up in 2015.

"For Yerevan, participation in the CU is more than just an economic issue. This is one more step to counterbalance Azeri-Turkish unfriendly power," Dubnov said, reminding that while Armenia participates in the Collective Security Treaty Organization along with Russia and four other CIS countries, Azerbaijan does not.

Armenia's way to the tripartite economic block could be shorter compared to the other aspirants such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Dubnov said, pointing out that Sargsyan expressed Yerevan's desire to integrate into the CU as recently as in September.

The fact that Putin agreed to turn a blind eye to the lack of common border between Russia and Armenia -- which Moscow once cited as a reason to reject Tajikistan's application -- highlights that the two countries actually feel some common "geopolitical chemistry," the expert said.

Dubnov believes it was not a coincidence that Moscow and Yerevan announced their plans in September, when Ukraine's preparations for rapprochement with the European Union were in full swing.

After Kiev made a U-turn, Moscow received one more stimulus to integrate Armenia in Russia-dominated geopolitical entity, Dubnov said.

"Putin wants to utilize the momentum for confirming Russia as the 'natural' center of gravitation on the Eurasian space, to demonstrate that the former Soviet republics have no alternative but to gather under Moscow's umbrella," the expert noted.

If Armenia will be fast-tracked into the Eurasian economic space, this will be a clear hint to Kiev to follow Yerevan's example, he said.

With the Armenians mostly support closer ties with Russia and see it as a brotherly nation, Putin's visit to that country is bound to succeed, Dubnov said.

Posted in: Asia-Pacific

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