By Hrach Melkumian in Tbilisi
President Robert Kocharian ended on Sunday a three-day official visit to Georgia which he and his Georgian counterpart Mikhail Saakashvili said will help their neighboring nations strengthen their relations.
The two leaders held a series of talks that focused on bilateral trade, transport and other economic issues. The economic focus of the visit was underscored by an Armenian-Georgian economic forum that began its work in Tbilisi at the weekend. Saakashvili and Kocharian presided over its opening session.
“We have had a very good meeting and reached mutual understanding on virtually all issues which we discussed,” Saakashvili said at a joint news conference in his official residence. “Relations between our brotherly states have always been brotherly,” he added.
Saakashvili, who greeted Kocharian on the main Georgian-Armenian border crossing, stressed that his administration has cracked down on the extortion of bribes from Armenian travelers from notoriously corrupt Georgian traffic police officers. He said they will now be able to lodge complaints through a anti-corruption hot line set up by the Georgian authorities recently.
“We have two helicopters on standby and are ready to send them to highway sections where Armenian or other drivers believe that they were unfairly stopped by uniformed people,” he said.
Saakashvili, who visited Yerevan earlier this year, also announced that Georgia’s main power utility will resume seasonal imports of electricity from Armenia starting on Monday.
The situation in Armenian-populated Javakheti region in southern Georgia was also on the agenda of the talks. The Armenian and Georgian leaders discussed economic development programs for the impoverished region, with Kocharian indicating that Yerevan is ready to assist in rebuilding local roads leading to the Armenian border. Kocharian also held a separate meeting with leaders of the Armenian community in Tbilisi.
The two men also visited Georgia’s former longtime President Eduard Shevardnadze to offer their condolences in connection with last week’s death of his wife Nanuli. Shevardnadze was ousted in the November 2003 “revolution of roses” led by Saakashvili.
(Photo by the Armenian presidential press service.)