Armenia signs up for Moscow-led economic union

10th October 2014, Comments 0 comments

Armenia on Friday officially signed up to a Russian-led economic union, cementing a deal that will see the former Soviet country turn its back on closer ties with Europe.

President Serzh Sarkisian signed the agreement to join the Eurasian Economic Union at a meeting of regional heads of state in the Belarusssian capital Minsk.

"We consider the Eurasian Economic Union as the fundamental format for developing the most predictable and profitable relations for our country," Sarkisian told the gathering.

The Caucasus nation of 3 million is now set to join Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in the economic bloc when it comes into force at the start of next year.

The project builds on an existing customs union between those three countries and has been championed by Russian President Vladimir Putin as he seeks to restore ties between remnants of the former Soviet Union.

Under pressure from Moscow, Armenia last year ditched plans to sign a pact on closer trade and diplomatic ties with the European Union.

Landlocked, and cut off from trade with its neighbouring foes Turkey and Azerbaijan, Armenia is heavily reliant on its ties to Russia. Remittances from citizens living there make up a sizeable chunk of its economy.

It also counts on its ex-Soviet master for arms supplies for its festering conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region.

Last November, a move by Ukraine to ditch key political and trade agreements with the EU in favour of closer Russian ties set off bloody protests that led to the ouster of Kremlin-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych.

Russia responded by annexing Crimea from Ukraine in March and throwing its support behind rebels in the east, but Kiev's new pro-Western leadership has signed the landmark deal with the EU and sought to sever institutional ties to its Soviet past.

© 2014 AFP

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