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Armenian, Georgian Presidents Pledge Closer Cooperation

BATUMI, Georgia -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian pledged closer cooperation between their respective countries, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Sarkisian arrived in Batumi on Georgia's Black Sea coast on February 27 on a private visit. The two men spent that day and the next talking and taking walks around the city, which has become a popular destination for Armenian vacationers in recent years.

"We agreed that the integration of our countries' economies should further intensify," Saakashvili told journalists on February 28. "We need more communication and more work to bring our peoples together, though they already are close to each other. Such meetings will take place much more frequently and this will benefit everyone."

He described relations between the two countries as "cloudless." He also said he is sure 2010 will prove to be "a turning point in our relations, even if those relations have always been very good and are very good now, too."

The two men also discussed the Upper Lars border crossing between Russia and Georgia, which reopened today. Its closure in 2006 hurt Armenian exports to Russia of agricultural produce and other goods.

The Georgian and Russian governments announced in late December that they would allow renewed commercial and passenger traffic through the mountain pass as of today. The agreement was reportedly reached under Swiss and Armenian mediation.