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“Expression of certain hang-ups”: Why did Yerevan support Bishkek?

In his latest extensive interview with Ala-Too Kyrgyz TV Channel, President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan talked about leaving president Almazbek Atambayev with evident sympathy. Judging from the interview, the Armenian leader hailed Atambayev’s devotion to the interests of the Kyrgyz state, his readiness to protect the country’s interests, honor and dignity.

One could get a dual impression from the interview considering the uneasy relations of Yerevan and Astana. It appears that Armenia and Kazakhstan have neither any acute disputes nor close relationships, but they live in “parallel dimensions” being or considered to be allies in two large alliances – Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Different vectors of Armenia and Kazakhstan are felt inside these alliances more than elsewhere. This means that the sides at least lack sympathy towards each other.

To recall, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev strongly opposed Armenia’s accession to EAEU because of what he called different states of economy. In addition, he mentioned the unresolved Karabakh conflict that affects customs borders and creates preconditions for penetration of products manufactured in the self-proclaimed republic into the EAEU markets. Nazarbayev supports territorial integrity of Azerbaijan i.e. return of Nagorno-Karabakh to Baku’s jurisdiction. He has repeatedly expressed such views, which could not but anger Yerevan, indeed. Nazarbayev's stance during last year’s “April four-day war” hurt Yerevan so much that it openly blamed its CSTO and EAEU ally for supporting its enemy.

Considering these circumstances, Serzh Sargsyan’s interview was a clear message to Astana about Armenia’s potential stance in the conflict between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and even possible alliance of the two weakest members of EAEU against powerful Kazakhstan. To recall, Astana was against Kyrgyzstan’s accession to EAEU as well.

How real is that scenario? EADaily asked this question to Alexander Knyazev, expert in Central Asia and Middle East.

“It seems to me that Serzh Sargsyan’s statements addressed to Almazbek Arambayev were ordinary compliments expressing certain corporate solidarity of the two by far not successful politicians, one of whom is due to end his career,” Knyazev said. He thinks that Armenia’s relations with Kazakhstan are not perfect. Compliments to the Kyrgyz leader amid current Kyrgyz-Kazakh conflict was an expression of certain hang-ups. “The Eurasian Economic Union is by far not in a perfect state. Moscow admitted Kyrgyzstan and Armenia into the Union for political reasons, as its ‘junior brothers,’ ignoring Minsk and Astana, which endangers the future of EAEU,” Knyazev said.

EADaily’s Central Asian Bureau

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