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Armenian President’s Visit To Georgia 'Not Canceled'

Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze
YEREVAN -- Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze says Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has not cancelled an official visit to Georgia and will go there soon, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

"Where are you getting that information from? No visit was cancelled," Vashadze told RFE/RL on November 7 after talks in Yerevan with Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian.

Vashadze insisted that the two sides simply failed to prepare for Sarkisian's visit. "I couldn't come [to Armenia] because I was in Australia and New Zealand. Eduard [Nalbandian] was waiting for me. Unfortunately I couldn't come [until now]. Now I'm here and the visit [by the Armenian president to Georgia] has been prepared," he said.

Vashadze discussed those preparations with Sarkisian at a meeting held later on November 7. The Armenian presidential press office said the visit will be organized in a way "befitting relations existing between the two states."

Neither Vashadze nor Sarkisian's office announced any dates for the trip.

A spokeswoman for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was quoted by Georgian media last month as saying that Sarkisian will arrive in Tbilisi at the beginning of November. But official Yerevan denied that report, saying that the Armenian leader has not scheduled any trips abroad for that period.

The conflicting information sparked speculation that the trip was cancelled for political reasons.

In particular, commentators speculated that Sarkisian had expressed displeasure with Saakashvili's reported remark that Georgian authorities would have responded faster and more effectively to a massive landslide in northern Armenia that killed five people in early October.

"This is what an efficient government system means," Saakashvili reportedly said.

Armenian Emergency Situations Minister Armen Yeritsian later questioned the veracity of the statement attributed to Saakashvili.

Sarkisian and Saakashvili most recently met in Yerevan in January. Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalanandadze said in Tbilisi on November 7 that the two leaders maintain a "good personal relationship."

Also visiting Yerevan on November 7 was Georgian Economy Minister Vera Kobalia. She met with Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian (no relation) for talks that Armenian officials said focused on next week's session in Tbilisi of a Georgian-Armenian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation.

Tigran Sarkisian called for the strengthening of Georgian-Armenian economic ties during talks with Kobalia.

"We regard Armenia and Georgia as a single economic area," Tigran Sarkisian told her. "All obstacles to commercial traffic between us must be removed because that stems from the interests of our peoples."

A government statement cited the prime minister as also saying that the Armenian side will propose that the commission hold talks on the planned establishment of joint customs checkpoints on the Armenian-Georgian border.

He noted that the European Union will allocate 42 million euros ($59 million) to the reconstruction of facilities at Armenia's three border crossings with Georgia.

Tigran Sarkisian and his Georgian counterpart Nika Gilauri announced plans for joint border management after talks in Yerevan last February.

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