By Hrach Melkumian
Senior government officials from Armenia and Georgia met in Yerevan on Thursday to tackle a backlog of issues pertaining to bilateral economic relations, including Tbilisi’s $20.5 million debt to Yerevan. The two-day session of the Armenian-Georgian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation is due to focus on a wide range of areas of interest to the two neighboring states.
The Armenian side led by Minister of Transport and Telecommunications Yervand Zakharian was pushing for the signing of several agreements encompassing industry, transport, trade and the energy sector, sources said. But their content has not yet been disclosed.
The two sides assigned their respective finance ministries to make another attempt to agree on the restructuring of Georgia’s debt, of which $4.4 million is to be paid for purchases of electricity from Armenia in 1998 and 1999. Armenian Energy Minister Karen Galustian said a timetable on the gradual repayment of the energy debt was agreed at the beginning of the year and is being implemented as planned.
The two sides have yet to agree on the restructuring of the remaining $16 million. Georgian Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli said last week that his government has decided to suspend payments on the sum “until the situation is clarified.” He said the first round of Armenian-Georgian negations on the issue was unsuccessful.
But he head of the Georgian government delegation, Deputy Minister of State Koba Gvenetadze, said he is sure that the commission will find mutually acceptable solutions. “When we talk about relations between Armenia and Georgia we should never use the word ‘problem’,” Gvenetadze told RFE/RL. “We only have issues that are not yet resolved.”