YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–During their private meeting September 29–Armenian and Georgian Presidents–Robert Kocharian and Eduard Shevardnadze discussed a wide range of issues regarding bilateral relations.
The two countries’ leaders exchanged views on the latest developmen’s in the region–particularly–in the North Caucasus–as well as addressed the cooperation within the framework of the CIS and international organizations.
During enlarged negotiations the Armenian and Georgian officials provided information on the previously held discussions and reached agreemen’s.
Expressing satisfaction with the development of bilateral relations–Kocharian and Shevardnadze stressed that the longtime legal framework and the friendly atmosphere between the two countries serve as grounds for giving a new impetus to bilateral relations and bringing them to a higher level.
As for regional conflicts–the two countries’ leaders expressed willingness to combine efforts towards the establishment of peace and stability in the Caucasus.
Shevardnadze received a title of honorary citizen of Yerevan and was presented with the keys to the city. The solemn ceremony was held September 29.
"It is deeply symbolic that for the first time during the last ten years we present the keys to the city to Your Excellence–a highly respected person–who spares no efforts towards the establishment of good-neighborly relations and peace in the Caucasus," Mayor of Yerevan Albert Bazeyan said–stressing that the Georgian president’s visit is a testimony to the fact that the centuries-old friendship between the Armenian and Georgian peoples was not shaken by the ordeals the two peoples underwent.
"I’ve been given many awards–but this one is special–as the relations between our peoples are special," the Georgian president said. He pointed out that he considers it an important task and great honor to build up really friendly and equal relations between the two independent states. "Next spring presidential election will be held in Georgia. It will be a good thing if I am elected–but if not–I know where I can settle down. I have a key that can open the doors of any house in Yerevan," the Georgian president said.
Shevardnadze gave a speech that night at a banquet in his honor hosted by President Kocharian.
The Georgian President said:
"The task of the Caucasus leaders is to prevent the seat of tension in Euroatlantic territory from igniting again–which would thwart our quite reasonable hopes for a better future. The South Caucasus has become the epicenter of interests of many states–which want it to be an arena of peace–stability and cooperation of both the historically Caucasian states and the largest countries and communities. The general success depends also on us–the leaders of the South Caucasus states–on our mutual confidence–our desire and readiness not to focus attention on dividing factors–but to concentrate on what we have in common.
"We have much in common. The most important thing is a real opportunity to turn our region into the most dynamically developing part of the Eurasian space. It became clear that these are not mere dreams when the Council of Europe got down to the realization of this project along with its TRACECA project–when the United States together with its European allies began to encourage and support our idea of restoring the Great Silk Road–which found its reflection in the Great Silk Road Strategy Bill passed on the initiative of Senator Brownback–when late last September the delegations of all the three South Caucasus states–leaving aside all doubts and differences–together with the leaders of the eleven Great Silk Road states signed the historical Baku Declaration. It became clear quite recently as well–when a terminal filling a tanker with crude Caspian oil was built from nothing in Supsa in an unprecedented short time. A ferry linking the Georgian port of Poti with Illyichevsk in Ukraine and further with Varna in Bulgaria was opened the same day. I will remind you that the Batumi-Novorossiysk ferry is already operational. It showed to the entire world that through combined efforts of the South Caucasus states and our friends we are able to solve any problem. I cannot but mention the new aspects of the EU’s Caucasus policy–which was reflected in the ratification of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in Luxembourg.
"At the same time–I want to repeat in the presence of all what I had repeatedly stated to my friends and neighbors. The South Caucasus will be able to achieve a powerful economic upheaval only when all three states are involved in the process of intensive cooperation. There must be no leaders nor laggers in the region–but only active participants in comprehensive processes and marginals. We can consider natural only the situation when all states share equal participation in these processes–find equal benefit from these processes and share equal responsibility.
"Through combined efforts–we can demonstrate to all that the Caucasus is a region of peace and cooperation. It becomes more and more possible as the ‘Peaceful Caucasus’ initiative gains more and more proponents. Russia–which plays the key role in the region–has joined this idea too. The peoples of the North Caucasus look at us with hope too. They want to see harmony and peace-mindedness in our relations. The settlement of conflicts in Abkhazia–South Ossetia and Nagorno Karabakh will open the ways connecting the states of the South Caucasus with other regions of Russia and European countries via the North Caucasus.
"Robert Kocharian and I had a substantial talk on these issues. All of us advocate the principles of freedom and democracy–market relations and free enterprise–human rights and liberties. All of us are seeking to become full-fledged members of European structures and the entire world community. Hence–it’s time we embarked on a long and thorny path of reconciliation. Sooner or later we will achieve it. Sooner or later the common interests of peace in the Caucasus will make us find a common language. We highly appreciate the willingness of Presidents Kocharian and Aliyev to continue the Caucasus forum with another high-level meeting. I think that Tbilisi may become a perfect venue for such a summit. We are convinced that at a similar meeting it will be possible to achieve concrete results–to develop concrete proposals to convert the region into an arena of effective cooperation.
"Armenia and Georgia are effectively in cooperation at many international organizations–including the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. We are greatly pleased to note the high rate of growth of Armenia’s economic and its successful reforms. It does credit to the far-sighted policy of President Kocharian–a good friend of Georgia–a far-sighted and internationally acknowledged politician.
"We are deeply satisfied with the fact that Armenia is one of our major trade partners and that trade between out states tends to increase.
"We are glad to see you make progress–including in fighting the ‘plague of the 20th century’ [AIDS]. We believe that our next-door neighbor and friend–ancient Armenia–will score new successes and the friendship between our peoples."