YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia and the European Union on Thursday officially launched negotiations on a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement which is meant to significantly facilitate commercial flights between their cities.

“In the frames of this agreement, the Republic of Armenia will join the EU Common Aviation Area, and as a result the parties will liberalize the market, providing the airlines with the opportunity to operate the routes without any limitations and enjoy equal opportunities of servicing a market with a population of 500 million,” the EU Delegation in Yerevan said in a statement.

The agreement will also require Armenia to comply with the EU’s civil aviation regulations.

The head of the EU Delegation, Piotr Switalski, said it will enable Armenia to have a “strong connection with Europe and the outside world” at large. “We expect more competition based on European standards and, of course, better connectivity for Armenia, cheaper air tickets to Europe for Armenian citizens,” Switalski said in his opening remarks at the talks held in Yerevan.

Sergey Avetisian, the head of the Armenian civil aviation authority and Yerevan’s chief negotiator, agreed. “This will lead to more competition through a more active involvement of airlines, which will in turn mean a geographic diversification [of flights,] lower prices of air tickets and better services,” he said.

Avetisian added that the two sides will not take long to negotiate and sign the deal but did not give any possible dates.

At present, only three EU-based airlines — Air France, Austrian Airlines and Poland’s LOT — carry out regular flights to and from Yerevan. Klaus Geil, a senior aviation official at the executive European Commission, said several other European carries are now also taking an interest in Armenia.

“They are looking forward to us finalizing the negotiations on this agreement, which will create a clear framework for them to make investments,” Geil said at the start of the talks.

Armenia liberalized its civil aviation sector in October 2013 following the bankruptcy of the Armavia national airline. The latter had enjoyed exclusive rights to fly to Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East for almost ten years.

Avetisian insisted in December last year that the switch to the so-called “open skies” policy has already proved to be a success. He reported a sizable increase in the number of passengers processed by Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport.

Armenia and the EU started negotiating on the aviation deal one month after finalizing a new agreement on deepening their political and economic links. The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is expected to be signed in November.

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