Direct talks between Armenian PM, Russian President in Yerevan
The President of Russia came to Yerevan on October 1 to attend a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council. After the meeting, at about 10 p.m. Putin had a bilateral meeting with the Armenian Prime Minister.
No details have been announced so far. It is known that Pashinyan spoke with the Russian president about the importance of relations with Moscow for Yerevan:
“Russia is our strategic partner, and we hope to make the partnership stronger. Thank you for your willingness, understanding of our relationship. I think they will be stronger and stronger. At least that is our view.”
As for the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, for the first time not only the leaders of the member countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia) took part in it, but also the guests of honor – the heads of Singapore, Iran, as well as the President of Moldova as representative observer states.
In this regard, the Yerevan meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and, in general, the period of Armenia’s chairmanship in the EAEU were marked by the expansion of the geography of cooperation.
Within the framework of this meeting, the Eurasian Economic Union and the EAEU member countries signed the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and the Free Trade Agreement with Singapore.
Earlier, the Agreement on a free trade zone with the EAEU was also signed with Iran, which explains the presence of Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani at the meeting.
There were about two dozen issues on the agenda of the summit. But the most acute problem that the heads of state discussed was the removal of barriers to trade within the union.
An incident before the meeting
The meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council began with a small incident that occurred with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Immediately after taking a general photo of all the participants in the event, when they climbed the stairs to the presidential residence, a journalist of Georgian TV channel Rustavi 2 managed to shout out two questions to Putin:
“When will you begin to fulfill your commitments made in 2008?”
Putin answered the first question rather calmly and with a smile:
“We always fulfill our obligations.”
Regarding the second question of the Georgian journalist, “when will the troops leave the occupied territories of Georgia?” , Putin said more seriously:
“When we decide.”
After that, the Russian president entered the building, and security officers asked the journalist Rustavi 2 to step back.
What was discussed at the meeting
In his welcoming message, the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan stated:
“It is doubly pleasant to hold today’s meeting, as the leaders of two countries – Iran and Singapore, with whom the Union is developing trade and economic relations aimed at establishing a free trade regime, will participate in it.
“As a result of close and effective cooperation between all parts of our organization, we were able to further expand the geography of cooperation of the Union, which makes today’s meeting of particular importance.”
At first, a small meeting was held, in which the heads of the countries of the Eurasian five and the chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission Tigran Sargsyan participated. It was closed to the press. Journalists returned to the hall only with the beginning of an extended meeting, in which the heads of invited states also participated.
The main negative issue addressed and raised by the leaders of the participating countries was the issue of barriers to trade within the union. Last year, at a similar meeting in St. Petersburg, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko openly stated that work on this front “is prohibitively slow.”
In Yerevan, Lukashenko again spoke of the many barriers that need to be addressed:
“It is especially alarming when they are introduced in such sensitive areas as, for example, public procurement.”
The President of Belarus said that a lot of effort and money needs to be done to create an effective economic union. At the same time, he positively assessed the fact that the concept of forming the common financial market of the EAEU was approved in Yerevan and the foundations for ensuring free movement of capital and services were laid.
As for the Prime Minister of Armenia, among the priorities for the residents of his country, Pashinyan insisted on resolving the issue of the movement of labor. In his opinion, barriers to the movement of labor within the EAEU impede the formation of a common labor market. And this issue needs to be resolved to increase the effectiveness of cooperation.
Assessing the overall activity of the EAEU, the Armenian Prime Minister stated:
“Our organization is growing stronger from year to year. It has proven its viability and attractiveness as an international integration association. Armenia, chairing the EAEU this year, is making a particular contribution to this cause.”
Speaking about the role of Armenia in the union, Pashinyan emphasized that the participation of the leaders of Iran, Singapore and Moldova was an aspect of the culmination of the Armenian chairmanship.
The EAEU recently signed a free trade agreement with Serbia, negotiations are underway with India, Egypt and Israel. The Minister for Trade of the Eurasian Economic Commission Veronika Nikishina in this regard stated:
“We are moving at a good pace and are preparing for a major breakthrough.”
Agreement with Singapore
The EAEU concluded a free trade agreement with Singapore immediately after the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council.
It provides for the abolition of customs duties on most goods, but there are exceptions.
At the initiative of the EAEU Member States, duties were not abolished for certain food products (beef, milk, baby food, cheese, sugar), as well as cars.
Singapore will abolish customs duties immediately, and EAEU countries – in stages, over a period of 10 years.
In addition to the free trade agreement with Singapore, the parties signed the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation.
Since September 30, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been in Armenia. This is his first visit to Armenia since the Velvet Revolution of the spring of 2018.
Rouhani said this is the first time his country is joining a regional economic union, and this is a very important step in conditions when the United States is exerting strong pressure on Iran.
The signing of the Free Trade Area Agreement with the EAEU, he said, expresses Iran’s strong political will to develop regional and multilateral economic and trade cooperation.
“The geographical position of Iran allows transit from Europe to Asia, from west to east, from north to south. We strive to use this opportunity for stable development of the country and economic integration,” said Rouhani.
The work of the Free Trade Zone of Iran with the EAEU will begin on October 27. After the entry into force of the agreement with the EAEU, hundreds of Iranian goods will be able to enjoy special preferential terms. The free trade regime will affect agricultural products of early harvest and some goods of the construction industry.
A bilateral meeting between the President of Iran and the Armenian Prime Minister took place in Yerevan.
Rouhani noted that Iran attaches great importance to the development of relations with Armenia. He also stressed that the volume of trade between the two countries has increased significantly during the work of the Pashinyan team, and joint projects continue to be successfully implemented.
“We are ready to continue working with your government on the development and implementation of new projects and the expansion of the Gas in Exchange for Electricity program. At the same time, we are ready to implement projects to generate electricity in Armenia using gas, wind and solar. We are interested in implementing regional energy projects and developing infrastructure,” he said.