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Armenia, Georgia Agree To Jointly Control Border

Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian (left) and his Georgian counterpart, Nika Gilauri, in Yerevan.
YEREVAN -- Armenia and Georgia have formalized plans to jointly operate their three border crossings in an effort to facilitate trade and transport between the countries, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and his visiting Georgian counterpart, Nika Gilauri, said after talks in Yerevan that their governments would soon start discussions on a corresponding bilateral agreement.

Gilauri said he hoped the agreement with Armenia would be similar to one the country signed with Turkey last year.

Sarkisian's cabinet formally approved the idea of managing the border crossings with Georgia at its last session on February 10. A government statement cited Sarkisian as calling the planned agreement "highly important."

Presidents Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia and Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia also discussed ways of simplifying transport between their countries when they met in Yerevan last month. Serzh Sarkisian's office said the two pledged to make sure that vehicles cross the Georgian-Armenian border "almost without stops."

New Driving Rules

Cross-border travel has been complicated recently by new driving regulations imposed by both countries on January 1.

Georgia has begun levying a new tax on heavy trucks, while Armenia has introduced mandatory insurance for domestic and foreign cars that require drivers to place an insurance sticker on their windshields.

The latter requirement puts Armenian insurance holders in conflict with Georgian regulations that stipulate car windshields must be free of any obstructions.

The conflicting requirements have already created problems for motorists who shuttle between the countries.

This issue was high on the agenda of Tigran Sarkisian's talks with Gilauri.

"We agreed with the prime minister that we must organize these processes in a way that minimize inconveniences for our business entities and citizens," the Armenian premier said.

The Georgian minister for local government, Ramaz Nikoleishvili, told RFE/RL that Yerevan has agreed to waive the insurance-sticker requirement and to introduce other methods of insurance enforcement.

Trade Remains Modest

Despite continuing efforts to strengthen economic links, the volume of Georgian-Armenian trade remains modest. According to Armenian statistics, trade with Georgia last year (through November) accounted for just over 2 percent of the country's overall foreign trade.

President Sarkisian called for more active efforts to boost bilateral trade when he met with Gilauri later in the day.

Gilauri dismissed media speculation that Tbilisi could privatize the Georgian section of a pipeline that supplies Russian natural gas to Armenia.

"The government of Georgia is not going to sell a controlling stake in the pipeline," he said. "There are strategic facilities that will continue to be managed by the government of Georgia in the future."

Last summer, the Georgian parliament removed the so-called North-South pipeline from a list of strategic state facilities that are not subject to privatization. The move raised fears in Yerevan that Azerbaijan's state oil company, which manages Georgia's domestic gas distribution network, could acquire it and block vital gas deliveries to Armenia.