President Serzh Sarkisian did not cancel an official visit to Georgia and will go there soon, Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said in Yerevan on Monday. Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian, meanwhile, called for the strengthening of Georgian-Armenian economic ties during talks with another visiting Georgian minister.
A spokeswoman for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was quoted by Georgian media as saying last month that President Sarkisian will arrive in Tbilisi at the beginning of November. However, official Yerevan denied that, saying that the Armenian leader has not scheduled any trips abroad for that period.
The conflicting information sparked speculation that the trip was cancelled for political reasons. In particular, commentators speculated that Sarkisian thus expressed his displeasure with Saakashvili’s reported remark that Georgian authorities would have responded faster and more effectively to a massive landslide in northern Armenia that killed five people in early October.
“This is what an effective government system means,” Saakashvili was reported to say.
Armenia’s Minister of Emergency Situations Armen Yeritsian afterwards questioned the veracity of the statement attributed to the Georgian president.
“Where are you taking that information from? No visit was cancelled,” Vashadze told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) after talks with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.
Vashadze insisted that the two sides simply failed to prepare for Sarkisian’s visit on time. “I couldn’t come [to Armenia] because I was in Australia and New Zealand. Edward [Nalbandian] was waiting for me. Unfortunately I couldn’t come,” he said.
“Now I’m here and the visit has been prepared,” added the minister.
Vashadze discussed those preparations with Sarkisian at a meeting held later in the day. The Armenian presidential press office quoted him as saying that the visit will be organized in a way “befitting relations existing between the two states.”
Neither Vashadze, nor Sarkisian’s office announced any dates for the trip.
Sarkisian and Saakashvili most recently met in Yerevan last January. Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalanandadze said in Tbilisi on Monday that the two leaders maintain a “good personal relationship.”
Also visiting Yerevan on Monday was another top Georgian official, Economy Minister Vera Kobalia. She met with Prime Minister Sarkisian for talks which the Armenian government said focused on next week’s session in Tbilisi of a Georgian-Armenian inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation.
“We regard Armenia and Georgia as a single economic area,” Sarkisian told the 30-year-old minister. “All obstacles to commercial traffic between us must be removed because that stems from the interests of our peoples.”
A government statement cited Sarkisian as also saying that the Armenian side will propose that the commission hold further discussions on the planned establishment of joint customs checkpoints on the Armenian-Georgian border. He noted in that context that the European Union will allocate 42 million euros ($59 million) for the reconstruction of facilities at Armenia’s three border crossings with Georgia.
Tigran Sarkisian and his Georgian counterpart Nika Gilauri announced plans for joint border management after talks in Yerevan last February.