By Armen Zakarian
Lithuania’s President Rolandas Paksas held talks with his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian in Yerevan on Monday on the second, final leg of a regional tour aimed at shoring up his country’s links with the South Caucasus.
The leaders of the two former Soviet republics said the discussions focused on ways of reinvigorating the once extensive bilateral economic ties that have been reduced to a trickle since they became independent nearly twelve years ago.
“The volume of our trade is not really big,” Kocharian noted at a joint news conference held in his official residence. “We have nothing to brag about here.”
He said he is encouraged by a Lithuanian proposal to facilitate cargo traffic between the Baltic state and the three Caucasus nations by developing a ferry link between Georgian and Ukrainian Black Sea Ports.
Paksas, who arrived in Yerevan from the Georgian capital Tbilisi, said Lithuania has a reliable and inexpensive railway connection with Ukraine. He also argued that the Baltic countries’ entry into NATO and the European Union, expected next year, will create new opportunities for their close cooperation with Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
“The Baltic states’ cooperation experience is interesting, especially regarding their European integration,” Kocharian said. He added that although Yerevan will not bee seeking EU membership in the near future, it will strive to meet the union’s political and economic standards. He also called for deeper involvement in the Caucasus.
Visiting Bulgaria last week, Kocharian declared that Armenia will be close to meeting the stringent economic criteria for EU membership by 2015.