By M. Alkhazashvili
During an official visit to Yerevan, Armenia September 29-30 by Georgian Prime-Minister Zurab Noghaideli, several pertinent issues regarding the two countries’ economic relations were agreed upon and several significant political statements were made as well. The agreement reached by Armenian and Georgian representatives is of key importance not only for the two countries, but for the Caucasus region as a whole.
Part of the agreement regards the restructuring of Georgia’s USD 12 million debt towards Armenia. The sides agreed again to deepen cooperation in the energy and transportation spheres. On the table at negotiations was the issue of constructing a 330-km electric transmission line linking the Georgian and Armenian energy systems.
The newspaper Rezonansi writes that the Georgians side considers this to be a potential additional resource for energy supply. It is decided that the Georgian and Armenian energy systems will work in a parallel regime, much as Armenia does with Iran. This will strengthen the stability of Georgia’s energy system.
Zurab Noghaideli strove to calm Armenian fears that certain projects underway in Georgia will not go against Armenian interests. He then stated that Georgia is ready to assist in the creation of transport links with Armenia, namely automobile, railway and air transport in the directions Tbilisi-Yerevan and Yerevan-Batumi directions.
Zurab Noghaideli and his Armenian counterpart Andranik Margarian applied together to the European Union to allot a grant for the rehabilitation of the Airum-Sadakhlo highway that connects the two countries.
Margarian thanked Noghaideli for Georgia’s re-activation of the Poti-Kavkaz ferry route, which gives Armenia a stable route to Russia. In addition, the Armenian Prime-Minister thanked the Georgian side for the stable functioning of the vehicle route linking the two countries. Akhali Taoba reports that the Armenian side mentioned that since the creation of the Patrol Police, bribe-taking and blackmail on this road has all but completely ceased.
The meeting in Yerevan also witnessed an agreement in regard to certain Armenian activist groups’ demands for autonomy of the Javakheti region. As Noghaideli stated, “the people that demand the autonomy of Javakheti are only a small part of the community there and do not speak for the whole population.”
At the same time, he said, all citizens of Georgia will have equal opportunities for development. For his part, the Armenian Prime-Minister stated that the issue of Javakheti’s autonomy would never be on the agenda. “This issue is always mentioned when somebody wants to use it for his own interests,” he said, as quoted by Akhali Taoba.
Armenia expressed its satisfaction with Georgian plans to restore the Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki road within the framework of the United States’ Millennium Challenge program. This, they say, will help the Samtskhe-Javakheti region’s future integration into Georgia and also serve as a “window to Europe” for Armenia.
During the visit the Georgian side once again warned Armenia that given safety concerns, large cargo-bearing vehicles will not be allowed to cross the Georgian-Russian boarder checkpoint at Kazbegi-Lars this coming winter.
On Noghaideli’s demand, Georgian specialists will soon be given the opportunity to tour the Armenian Atomic Energy Plant in order to inspect the safety situation there. The Armenian side maintains that the plant is completely safe and that it poses no risk to neighboring countries.