Armenia and Georgia should try to deepen their trilateral economic cooperation with Iran after the recent lifting of international sanctions against the Islamic Republic, former Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said on Monday.
“As regards the expansion of economic cooperation among Armenia, Georgia and Iran, I think that everything is possible,” Panjikidze told journalists in Yerevan. “Everything depends on national interests and those interests are often connected to the economy.”
“Many prospects are emerging with the opening up of Iran,” she said. “We should therefore think about that and devise a strategic program of making those relations more intensive.”
Armenia and Georgia are already trying to jointly capitalize on the lifting of the sanctions. As recently as in April, top energy officials from the two South Caucasus neighbors as well as Iran and Russia signed a “roadmap” in Yerevan to the creation of an “energy corridor” that would sharply increase electricity supplies among them.
The four countries are to synchronize their power grids and engage in significant seasonal swaps of electricity, including with two new transmission lines that will connect Armenia to Iran and Georgia in 2018.
In recent months, Georgian and Iranian officials have also discussed the possibility of supplying Iranian natural gas to Georgia via Armenia. No final agreements have been reached so far, with Georgia continuing to buy the bulk of its gas from Azerbaijan.
Georgia is also the principal transit route for Azerbaijani oil and gas exported to world markets. The two states describe their relationship as “strategic partnership.”
“I will in no case say that Azerbaijan is more important to us than Armenia,” insisted Panjikidze, who served as foreign minister from 2012-2014 and is now a senior member of the Free Democrats, a major Georgian opposition party.
“Both countries are our neighbors, and we have always had very good relations with Armenia,” she said. “There are no political problems in Georgian-Armenian relations. It’s just that unfortunately our economic relations are not as developed as political ones.”
“I see great potential for the development of Georgian-Armenian economic relations,” added Panjikidze.
According to Armenian government data, Armenia’s trade with Georgia rose by 17 percent in 2015 and as much as 63 percent in the first half of this year. The rapid growth followed the 2014 signing of Georgia’s Association Agreement with the European Union and Armenia’s controversial accession in January 2015 to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and is outgoing Armenian counterpart, Hovik Abrahamian, praised growing bilateral trade and called for its further expansion when they met in Yerevan on September 5.