Armenia, Georgia Foreign Ministers Discuss Trade Route

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TBILISI (Eurasia.net)—Armenia’s Foreign Minister, Edward Nalbandian, had a meeting with his Georgian counterpart, Grigol Vashadze, in Tbilisi to discuss trade and economic relations. The key topic on the agenda was the transit of Armenian exports and imports via Georgia.

“It’s cheaper to deliver goods [to Armenia] via any country than via [the Georgian port of] Poti to Yerevan,” said Nalbandian. “We also discussed the checkpoint in Lars [on the Georgian-Russian] border. I’m sure negotiations will resolve these issues.”

The closest land routes to and from Armenia run through Georgia – via the Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi and via the border checkpoint of Kazbegi-Verkhny Lars on the Georgian-Russian border. The checkpoint was closed down by Russia in 2006 following a freeze in relations between Moscow and Tbilisi.

Russia reportedly reconstructed the checkpoint and is ready to reopen it. Notably, according to Vashadze, Moscow notified Yerevan about the possible reopening before it notified Tbilisi. In a separate statement, Vashadze said that Georgia is ready to negotiate the re-opening with Russia. “After the Russian Federation, via the Swiss Embassy, suggested that we start the negotiations, and we agreed, we are expecting developments, but nothing has happened yet,” Vashadze was quoted by the Russian news agency Regnum on June 8.

Yerevan is reportedly actively lobbying for the opening of the checkpoint. Other routes to Russia are longer and more expensive. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is expected to visit Armenia on June 24-25. Trade and transit are expected to feature prominently on his visit’s agenda.

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