Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili visited on Friday the site of what is going to be a ‘Friendship Bridge’ connecting the two South Caucasus neighbors over the Debed river.
The current Sadakhlo-Bagratashen bridge on the territory of an Armenian-Georgian border checkpoint was built back in the 1960s and is hardly fit for its function.
A few years ago the governments of Armenia and Georgia agreed to build a new, modern bridge that will meet international standards.
Work on the construction of a new bridge across the Debed river is carried out as part of Armenia’s Northern Corridor Modernization Program and is funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) within the framework of a loan agreement worth a total of 10.3 million euros (about $11.2 million). The project is co-financed by the governments of Armenia and Georgia and work on the bridge construction is coordinated by a joint Armenian-Georgian intergovernmental commission.
Construction of the bridge proper is set to begin in 2017 after the results of international tenders for the advisor on technical control and a contractor are summarized. It is expected to be completed within two years.
“The planned bridge is expected to further facilitate the quality of service of cargo and passenger traffic between the two countries, provide a time-saving, safe and convenient movement through the border checkpoints,” a statement released by the Armenian president’s press office said.
“It will also improve the quality of passenger service and freight traffic and save time, facilitating trade with Georgia, Russia and European countries,” it added.
Also today President Sarkisian and Prime Minister Kvirikashvili inaugurated a new checkpoint built at the Armenian-Georgian border.
The process of modernization of checkpoints on the state border of Armenia commenced back in 2010 upon a presidential decree on the approval of an integrated border management strategy and the security of the state frontier. Under the program three checkpoints at Bagratashen, Bavra and Gogavan were designated for priority modernization.
With the purpose of the modernization of checkpoints located on the northern border of Armenia in August 2012 the Government of Armenia and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed a relevant program concerning the three checkpoints.
The modernization program envisages the commissioning of checkpoints at Bagratashen and Gogavan at the first stage. The checkpoint at Bavra where work is still underway is due to be opened at the second stage of the program.
In his remarks at the ceremony President Sarkisian said that it is important that after the technical start of the crossing points all bodies located there properly carry out their operation, provide quality services that meet modern requirements. He stressed that an opinion about the country begins to form at the border checkpoint.
The total budget of the program is 52.13 million euros (about $58 million). The purpose of the program is to promote the free movement of people and goods across the borders while observing the border security, as well as to improve both bilateral and regional cooperation.
It is expected that the modernization of the checkpoints at the frontier will also contribute to the improvement of the living standards of the local population, providing both temporary and permanent jobs.
After the ceremonies the Armenian and Georgian leaders held a meeting during which they reportedly expressed satisfaction that “the two friendly and neighboring states consistently develop their political cooperation, boost their interstate relations, thus creating a solid foundation for raising their bilateral relations to a qualitatively new level.”
Sarkisian and Kvirikashvili also discussed possibilities of expanding trade and economic cooperation, including in the spheres of transportation, energy, tourism, agriculture and others.