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Georgia, Azerbaijan Sign Five Cooperation Agreements

14 June 2004 -- The presidents of Georgia and Azerbaijan today signed five cooperation agreements aimed at strengthening ties between their two Southern Caucasus countries.

The agreements were signed on the sidelines of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's visit to Georgia.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in Tbilisi today: "Our economic relations are developing rapidly. Our trade turnover has practically doubled since you, Ilham Heydarovich [Aliyev], became [Azerbaijan's] president and since the change of power in Georgia. This is a very remarkable indicator. We appreciate your understanding of our struggle against smuggling [in South Ossetia] and we would like all of our neighbors also to regard this situation with understanding."

Both sides notably agreed to coordinate steps in the development of their respective railroad networks and expand cooperation in the energy sector.

An oil pipeline linking the Azerbaijani capital Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan via Tbilisi is expected to become operational next year. It should be coupled in 2006 with a natural-gas pipeline stretching between Baku, Tbilisi, and the Turkish eastern Anatolian city of Erzurum.

Aliyev today described the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline as "an important element of future Georgian-Azerbaijani integration and economic interdependence."

(Novosti-gruziya/Civil Georgia/Prime News)