PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, who held talks with the Armenian leadership in Yerevan on January 17, said “there are no problems” in bilateral relations, called for deepening economic ties between the two countries and spoke of his readiness to work on restoring a railway link that would reconnect Armenia with Russia via Georgia including through breakaway Abkhazia.
The Georgian delegation, led by PM Ivanishvili, pays one-day visit to Armenia about three weeks after visiting Azerbaijan. The Georgian PM met his Armenian counterpart Tigran Sargsyan and also held talks with President Serzh Sargsyan.
“We had a very friendly meeting,” PM Ivanishvili said at a joint news conference with his Armenian counterpart Tigran Sargsyan. He said that conversation “proceeded so easily” as if the two knew each other for a long time already.
“Decisions were made on most of the issues discussed during the meeting. There are several issues which require additional discussions and I think we will find a compromise over these issues as well,” Ivanishvili said.
He said that during the talks, the Armenian PM mentioned need for common market “which I embraced.”
“It will be very good if we manage to maximally integrate our markets; it will make easier to foster growth of economies of our two countries,” Ivanishvili said. “Georgia’s new government is maximally disposed towards deepening of relations between the two friendly states and first of all economic relations should be deepened.”
Armenian PM Tigran Sargsyan said that there were no issues in bilateral relations impossible to resolve.
“There is a huge potential for development of economic cooperation. I want to thank my Georgian counterpart for voicing his positive attitude towards almost all the issues,” the Armenian PM said.
Asked during the press conference if restoration of the railway link between Georgia and Russia via Abkhazia was possible, Georgian PM Ivanishvili responded: “It’s possible.” He, however, added that the issue was complicated because of troubled relations between Georgia and Russian and because of “uneasy relations with our Abkhaz brothers”.
“You know that there are no problems in relationships between Georgia and Armenia,” he said.
“But we have huge problems in relationship with Russia. The problems were huge and they unfortunately still remain. We hope that relations – and we try it – to restore and mend ties with Russia. Profound and the most problematic issue is about Georgia’s territorial integrity,” PM Ivanishvili said and added that this issue would not be possible to resolve in the nearest future.
He, however, also said that the issue of railway could be resolved in case of a political will from all the parties.
“The Georgian side voiced its readiness in this regard,” PM Ivanishvili said. “On our part there is full readiness for solving all the issues as soon as possible.”
Armenian PM Sargsyan said that the issue of railway link was discussed and added that Yerevan would make efforts for resolving this issue.
“We are interested in resolving this issue as soon as possible,” the Armenian PM said. “We will take proactive position in this regard.”
Bidzina Ivanishvili first announced about his readiness to look into possibility of restoring the railway link during his pre-election campaign in September, 2012.
In a November, 2012 public opinion survey, commissioned by the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI), 68% of Georgian respondents said they would approve reestablishment of a railway link between Georgia and Russia via breakaway Abkhazia; 6% disapproved and 24% did not know.
During the news conference a journalist from the Georgian TV channel, Rustavi 2, asked the Prime Ministers about “misunderstanding over remarks” of Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze.
PM Ivanishvili, who appeared annoyed by the question, responded: “There have been thousands of explanations about this issue; even Rustavi 2 itself explained it; don’t you have anything else [to ask]?”
The issue involves misquoting Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze’s remarks on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by media outlets when during her visit to Lithuania she spoke at an event organized by the Lithuanian Parliament’s European Club and Eastern Europe Studies Center on January 10.
Azerbaijani news agency 1news.az reported at the time that Panjikidze said: “Georgia’s position on this issue remains unchanged. It is essential to establish peace in the region. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be settled only in frames of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.”
This report was seized upon by some media outlets in Georgia, as well as by some UNM lawmakers who even demanded Panjikidze’s resignation.
What Panjikidze actually said was: “We are not involved in the discussion between Azerbaijan and Armenia. But [the fact] that we support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, I can repeat [it] many, many times.”
“They [media outlets] distorted [FM’s] remarks, then explained that it was distorted, but they still are asking about it,” Ivanishvili said during the joint news conference with his Armenian counterpart. “Rustavi 2 was the most active and enjoying with this issue for two days and then they saw that there was no mistake [in Foreign Minister’s remarks].”
“The issue [of Nagorno-Karabakh] is very difficult,” he continued. “I had a conversation about this issue with the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during my visit to Azerbaijan. I conveyed the position of the Azerbaijani President to [the Armenian] Prime Minister. I will not go into details of this issue, but I can say that the issue is very difficult and as it seems it will be difficult to solve this issue in the near future. Everything should be done in order to solve this problem solely through peaceful means.”
Armenian PM Tigran Sargsyan thanked his Georgian counterpart for “balanced position” over Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“It’s not a secret that very often certain statements about Karabakh are distorted. We are grateful to our Georgian colleagues for a prompt reaction in order to prevent such interpretations, which do not correspond to the position of the Georgian government,” PM Sargsyan said.
During the visit the Georgian side signed two agreements with Armenia – one between the ministries of culture of the two countries and another one on joint use of customs points on the border between the two countries, which was signed by the finance ministers.