YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Serzh Sarkisian lambasted his Georgian counterpart, Mikheil Saakashvili, through a spokesman on Tuesday for claiming that Armenia’s economy has “virtually collapsed” because of its close ties with Russia.
Saakashvili made the remarks as he inaugurated a hotel and recreation center near Tbilisi on March 7. "You know that the Armenian economy virtually collapsed in a couple of weeks,” he said at the ceremony, according to Rustavi-2 television. “Why did Armenia collapse? Because it had been completely dependent on the Russian market. The Russian market collapsed and the Armenian economy collapsed too."
Russia accounted for approximately 20 percent of Armenia’s exports and overall external trade last year. The monetary value of Armenian exports to the European Union was nearly three times higher.
Sarkisian’s press secretary, Samvel Farmanian, described Saakashvili’s claims as “absolutely unfounded” and accused Saakashvili of deflecting domestic public attention from Georgia’s own economic problems. “I don’t think that making such evaluations is the best way to divert the attention of his own people from numerous problems existing in Georgia,” he said in a statement.
Farmanian also said that the Armenian president has never publicly commented on the political and socioeconomic situations in any of the neighboring states. “This is what political correctness means,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Georgian leader told the Mediamax news agency that "Mikhail Saakashvili’s words were not meant to offend the Armenian government."
“Since the national currency of Armenia was devaluated, this, according to us, has influenced the economic situation in Armenia on the whole,” said Alana Gagloyeva. She said Saakashvili only sought to point out that Georgia is “more protected” against the global economic crisis than Armenia because it is much less dependent on economic conditions in Russia.
Highlighting the growing impact of the global recession on the domestic economy, the Armenian authorities allowed last week a nearly 20 percent devaluation of the national currency, the dram. The International Monetary Fund has forecast that the Armenian economy will contract by 1.5 percent this year after more than a decade of robust growth.
The Georgian currency, the lari, has similarly lost about 16 percent of its nominal value in the past few months. The bulk of the lari depreciation occurred in November.