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Georgian PM visits Armenia

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, January 18
Georgian Prime Minister Bidizna Ivanishvili paid a visit to Armenia with several ministers on January 17th. Georgian PM met with his Armenian counterpart Tigran Sargsyan and President Serz Sargsyan.

Ivanishvili’s official Facebook page informs that the two Prime Ministers spoke about the political and economical cooperation among the two neighboring countries and the prospect of deepening cooperation. Georgian PM said every issue should be solved in the frames of neighborly policy.

At a joint press conference with his Armenian counterpart, PM Ivanishvili said the concerns over misrepresentation of Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze’s remarks on the Karabakh issue were settled.

Emphasizing the difficulty of the Karabakh issue, Ivanishvili said during his recent visit to Azerbaijan he talked to Azeri President Ilham Alyev and shared Alyev’s position to his Armenian counterpart.

Wishing peaceful regulation of the issue, Georgian PM said both Armenia and Azerbaijan must exert efforts into finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Armenian PM Tigran Sargsyan thanked his counterpart for a balanced position and welcomed Georgia’s prompt response to “distorting” media reports on Karabakh.

Answering the question of media, Armenian PM Sargsyan said that the Abkhazia-Georgia-Armenia railway is one of the issues on the agenda of bilateral relations. “We discussed this during our meeting. Armenia is interested in settlement of the issue,” News.Am cited Sargsyan.

Ivanishvili said the Georgian side has repeatedly stated readiness to operate the railway link again; however, this is to a great extent linked to Russia’s position. Ivanishvili said although Georgia tries to solve the problems with Russia, the huge problem with territorial integrity remains. He said although this problem cannot be solved soon, restoration of the railway is absolutely feasible if all the sides express political readiness, including Abkhazians.

Ivanishvili welcomed Sargsyan’s idea about establishing the common market and strengthening the economy of the two neighboring countries. “Our team is ready to deepen relations between the two nations, first of all in the economic direction,” said Georgian PM.

According to Ivanishvili, the two PM's achieved consensus on almost all of the issues; however, discussions around the rest will continue. Meanwhile, Sargsyan explained that there are no issues which cannot be solved through bilateral cooperation. “There is great potential for expanding bilateral ties, specifically in the economic sector,” he added.

In his recent statement, Caucasus Institute Deputy Director political analyst Sergey Minasyan emphasized the importance of the Georgian PM’s visit not only for Armenian-Georgian relations but also in the regional context. However, he thinks that the new Georgian authorities are trying to introduce changes into the country’s foreign policy, including improvement of relations with Russia and “some dynamics” in Georgian-Azerbaijani relations, which he finds “not so positive.”

While the candidate for Armenia’s presidency, expert in epic poems Vardan Sedrakyan, called Ivanishvili’s visit to Armenia “inter-political interference” especially before the upcoming Presidential elections in Armenia.

The Georgian delegation, led by Ivanishvili, included Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze, Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze, Economy Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri, State Minister for Reintegration Paata Zakareishvili, Minister for Penitentiary Sozar Subari and Culture Minister Guram Odisharia.

Georgian-Armenian officials signed an agreement between the Ministries of Culture of the two countries for cooperation in 2013-2014 and on the regulation of the activities of the customs checkpoints of Georgia and Armenia.

PM Ivanishvili also met with President Serz Sargsyan at his presidential palace. Georgian and Armenian officials hoped that the existing neighborly policy would continue and deepen in the future. A meeting was also held with the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church Karekin II.

Later that evening, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in his presidential palace that although he wants to have good relations with Armenia, he finds PM Ivanishvili’s statements about reopening Georgian-Abkhazian-Armenian railway “an anti-Georgian step.”

“I think this statement contains several alarming elements,” he said, stressing that this issue does not match with Georgia’s strategic political interests. Saakashvili explained that this railway used to connect Georgia with Europe via Russia, while in recent years the country has a better railway.

He said it is only in Russia’s interests to reopen Georgian-Abkhazian-Armenian railway, thus officially establishing occupation on Abkhazia.