YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri welcomed the possible opening of the Turkish-Armenian border and urged Russia to reopen its main border gate with Georgia used by Armenia during a working visit to Yerevan on Tuesday.
Gilauri and his Armenian counterpart, Tigran Sargsyan, spoke of further progress in the development of Georgian-Armenian economic ties after chairing a session of an inter-governmental commission on bilateral economic cooperation.
“I am happy to conclude today that we have reached agreement on all those issues [discussed by the commission,]” Sarkisian told a joint news conference. “I am confident that solutions to those issues will contribute to political, economic and social cooperation between our countries. There is no sphere which is outside the framework of our cooperation.”
“We have common projects,” Gilauri said for his part. “We have done a lot together and have a lot to do in the future.”
The two premiers singled out the planned construction of a new high-voltage electricity transmission line that will connect the two neighboring countries. “This is a very important project which has been included in the Armenian government’s 2010 program of actions and which we are going to finance,” said Sargsyan. “I am convinced that construction work will get underway in full swing this year.”
Official Armenian sources gave few other details of the commission meeting, saying only that it touched upon a wide range of issues of mutual interest. It was not clear if the anticipated reopening of the Russian-Georgian border was also on the agenda.
The Upper Lars crossing served as Armenia’s sole overland route to the former Soviet Union and Europe until it was controversially shut down by the Russian authorities in June 2006. Moscow and Tbilisi announced last month that they have agreed to allow renewed commercial traffic through the checkpoint starting from March. The announcement was welcomed by Yerevan.
Gilauri hinted, however, that the reopening of Upper Lars is still not a forgone conclusion. “The opening of the Upper Lars crossing would beneficial for Armenia, and Russia should eliminate those restrictions,” he said.
Armenia is heavily reliant on Georgian territory and the Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti in particular in its transport communication with the outside world. Analysts believe that dependence could ease significantly in case of the opening of its frontier with Turkey.
Gilauri asserted that his country would only welcome such a development. “We welcome the resolution of all conflicts existing in our region, as well as the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border and the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations,” he told journalists.
“Diversification will be positive for all countries of the region,” he said. The Georgian premier was also confident that Turkish-Armenian border opening would not have an immediate impact on Georgian transit fees levied from cargos shipped to and from Armenia.
Meanwhile, Gilauri and President Serzh Sarkisian described the Georgian-Armenian relationship as “brotherly” during talks held later in the day. “We consider Georgia a brotherly and friendly country and are ready to further deepen our relations,” Sarkisian told the visiting Georgian official.
“We are good neighbors and we must communicate more frequently to discuss the issues that emerge from time to time,” Sarkisian added.