YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Georgia’s Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze welcomed a new agreement on deepening Armenia’s relations with the European Union during an official visit to Yerevan on Tuesday.
“We discussed the process of Georgia’s European integration and cooperation within the framework of the EU’s Eastern Partnership program,” he said after talks with his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian. “We noted with satisfaction the conclusion of negotiations between Armenia and the EU on a new framework agreement.”
Janelidze referred to the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) that was finalized in Yerevan last month and is due to be signed later this year. The CEPA is a less ambitious alternative to an Association Agreement which Armenia planned to sign with the EU before unexpectedly deciding in 2013 to join a Russian-led trade bloc of ex-Soviet states.
Unlike Armenia, Georgia signed a similar Association Agreement with the EU in 2014. The deal involving far-reaching free-trade provisions came into effect in July 2016.
Armenian and Georgian leaders have repeatedly said that Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and Georgia’s European integration will not prevent the two neighboring states from strengthening their relations. According to official Armenian statistics, Georgian-Armenian trade rose by almost 28 percent to $245 million last year.
Nalbandian said there has been major progress in bilateral political and economic ties in the last few years. “The two sides periodically reiterate that there are no problems between Armenia and Georgia,” he told a joint news briefing with Janelidze. “There are only issues that are solved with joint efforts. Our meeting today is further proof of that.”
“We underlined our desire to further intensify our political dialogue,” Janelidze said for his part. He said they also discussed ways of boosting Georgian-Armenian cooperation on transport, energy and tourism. He spoke of “great untapped potential” in these and other areas.
The Georgian minister also held separate talks with President Serzh Sarkisian and Prime Minister Karen Karapetian. A statement by the Armenian presidential press office said Sarkisian and Janelidze “noted with satisfaction that Georgian-Armenian relations are dynamically developing.”