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Georgian Foreign Minister Discusses Security In Armenia


Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian (right) meets with his visiting Georgian counterpart Grigol Vashadze.

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian (right) meets with his visiting Georgian counterpart Grigol Vashadze.

Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze made a visit to Armenia that his counterpart Edward Nalbandian described as further evidence of "truly friendly relations" between the two countries, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Neither minister made any public statements after their talks on April 26, which the Armenian Foreign Ministry said touched upon "a broad range of issues," including regional security and the implementation of agreements signed by the Armenian and Georgian presidents.

A ministry statement gave no further details of the talks.

"The first four months of this year have already seen visits to Armenia by the president and the prime minister of Georgia," Nalbandian was quoted by his press office as telling Vashadze. "The [Georgian] ministers of internal affairs, defense, and transport have also been here recently."

"This intensity of visits testifies to...truly friendly relations existing between Armenia and Georgia," he said.

It was not clear if Vashadze discussed in Yerevan the Georgian parliament's April 19 decision not to renew an agreement that has allowed Russia to use Georgian territory for making shipments to the Russian military base in Armenia.

Georgian Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia visited Yerevan the day before that decision, which was initiated by President Mikheil Saakashvili.

"I don't exclude that Vashadze's visit is somehow connected with the annulment of that document," Levan Urushadze, a Georgian political analyst, told RFE/RL.

Sergey Minasian, deputy director of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute, suggested that the issue was hardly high on the agenda of the trip. "I think that issue has already been discussed before, perhaps at the presidential level," he said. "It was discussed in greater detail during the [Georgian] defense minister's visit."

The Armenian Defense Ministry last week expressed confidence that Tbilisi's decision will not lead to any "change in Armenia's security environment" and will not weaken the country's military capacity.

Minasian agreed, saying that the Russian-Georgian agreement on military transit effectively stopped working during the August 2008 war in South Ossetia. He told RFE/RL that Russia has since communicated with its troops stationed in Armenia through other regional states, including Azerbaijan.

The Russian military base is a major element of Armenia's national security strategy. A Russian-Armenian agreement signed last August upgraded Russia's mission in Armenia and extended Moscow's lease on its base by 24 years, until 2044.

Visiting Yerevan in October, Vashadze made no secret of Tbilisi's concerns about the Russian military presence in Armenia and elsewhere in the South Caucasus.
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