President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev (left) and President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili making a statement for the press after a meeting in Tbilisi on November 5, 2015. Photo: Azerbaijani president’s office
Georgian and Azerbaijani President reiterated strategic partnership and “friendly” relations between the two countries after talks in Tbilisi on November 5.
Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, who started a two-day official visit to Georgia on Thursday, signed a joint declaration after the meeting, which calls for strengthening of existing “strategic partnership” and “elevating relations by deepening and broadening cooperation in fields of mutual interest, both in the bilateral and international fora.”
President Margvelashvili said after the meeting that “strategic partnership” launched between Georgia and Azerbaijan two decades ago “gave hugely significant role” to the both countries as well as to the Caucasus region.
“We spoke about strategic cooperation through which the two countries are linked, as well as about those long-term plans that link Caspian and Black Seas,” he said.
“Our relations are based on spirit of good neighborly relations, which has withstood serious tests. I recall 2008 [August war between Georgia and Russia], Russia’s occupation and a very principled position of Azerbaijan. Naturally, our relations will withstand any kind of test in the future as well,” Margvelashvili said.
Speaking about importance of transit route, the Georgian President also said: “Despite of difficult situation as we have our territorial integrity violated and further deepening of policy of occupation is underway against our occupied territories, we have always remained committed partners in this [transit] corridor and have demonstrated even in the most difficult times that we are committed to this transit function.”
He also noted importance of Azerbaijani investments in Georgia and charitable activities of Azerbaijani companies.
In his remarks the Georgian President congratulated his Azerbaijani counterpart on “a very successful parliamentary elections”, held in Azerbaijan on November 1.
“We have discussed extensively further possibilities opening up in energy and transport projects. I am glad that there is not a single issue on which we have a disagreement with Georgia,” President Aliyev said.
“We are friends; we are brothers,” the Azerbaijani President added.
Azerbaijani President’s visit captures Georgian media’s interests mostly in the context of Tbilisi’s ongoing talks with Gazprom over possible purchase of gas from Russia.
According to Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze, Georgia will have to buy gas from Gazprom for commercial entities, not for households, on top of what the country is already receiving from Russia as a transit fee, claiming that “there is no possibility” to import additional volumes from Azerbaijan, which is Georgia’s main gas supplier; households in Georgia consume gas supplied from Azerbaijan. According to Kaladze additional gas will be required for commercial entities to fill the gap amid the increasing total gas consumption in Georgia, which he said is expected to reach 2.5 billion cubic meters in 2015, a 27 percent increase since 2012. According to the Georgian Energy Ministry the country may face the gap till 2019 before the second phase of Shah Deniz project becomes operational.
After it emerged that Tbilisi was in talks with Gazprom, Georgia’s PM Irakli Garibashvili paid a brief and unannounced visit to Baku on October 1o where he met President Aliyev, triggering speculation in Tbilisi that the surprise visit aimed at mending ties after potential fallout caused by Tbilisi’s suggestions over Gazprom gas supplies.
Kaladze, who is also deputy PM, was present along some other officials at talks between the Georgian and Azerbaijani Presidents in Tbilisi on November 5. He told journalists that the issue of Georgia’s talks with Gazprom was not at all brought up during the meeting with the Azerbaijani President.
When speaking about the importance of energy transit routes to Europe and about Shah Deniz phase II project, President Aliyev said after talks with his Georgian counterpart that Azerbaijan has huge natural gas reserves – enough to provide gas for next hundred years not only for its own domestic consumption, but for supplying it to neighbors and Europe.
In the joint declaration the two presidents “reaffirm their assurance of launching the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project in 2016”; the launch of operation of the railway link, which will link Azerbaijan with Turkey via Georgia, has been delayed for number of times already.
President Aliyev said that Georgia and Azerbaijan should agree on unified policies on cargo transit. “It will help to increase cargo turnover through our countries; I hope that it will be possible,” he said.
The two presidents’ declaration mentions “the South Caucasus electricity transit corridor from Azerbaijan via Georgian energy system to Turkey.” According to the Georgian Energy Minister, Kakha Kaladze, a memorandum is expected to be signed according to which electricity, produced at thermal power plants in Azerbaijan, will be transited to Turkey via Georgia.
On defense and security, the joint declaration of the two presidents notes about the need to “enhance defense and military-technical cooperation on a bilateral level and within the framework of the [NATO’s] Partnership for Peace Programme” and to “establish regular consultations at senior civil and military level on political-military issues.”
In their joint declaration the two presidents “confirm importance of the delimitation and demarcation of the state border” between the two countries and “the necessity of acceleration of completion of the delimitation process”.
During his visit the Azerbaijani President will also meet Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili on November 6.
Also on November 6 the Georgian and Azerbaijani Presidents plan to visit Marneuli, town in Kvemo Kartli region populated predominantly by ethnic Azerbaijanis.