Saakashvili in joy, Sargsyan at work01.12.2011 | 13:07
As expected, the visit of Armenian president Serge Sargsyan to Georgia was mostly protocolary. In Tbilisi the Armenian leader met with Mikheil Saakashvili, his counterpart, as well as other representatives of the country's authorities. By the way, Mishiko generously flattered Yerevan calling relations with Armenians almost ideal and cajoling Sargsyan into establishment of a confederation. Yet, as Arnold Stepayan, a well-known expert suggests in his interview with GeorgiaTimes, despite all these statements, Sakartvelo's partnership with Armenia will never go beyond pragmatism.
Serge Sargsyan, "an old loyal friend" as Mikheil Saakashvili calls him, came to Tbilisi a month later than it was planned with some experts taking the postponement for a cool-off between two countries. That is why expectations over this visit were not great. And that was right, as a result.
Saakashvili received the guest the way he usually does. In a hurry he stated that Georgian-Armenian relationships must serve as a model, and that today's cooperation between Tbilisi and Yerevan is in its peak. Mikheil Nikolayevich certainly has his own concept of "peak" constantly poking into Armenia's domestic affairs with advice, consultations and "concern" like it was after the signature of an agreement on deployment of a Russian military base in Guymri. Let's get back to Saakashvili's speeches though.
The president of Georgia seems to be completely carried away suggesting that Sargsyan set up a unique economic space in Caucasus. "Our people and our small countries have no other alternative", - he exclaimed promising that soon Georgia and Armenia will enjoy a facilitated regime of joint border crossing. Finally, Mishiko swore to destroy bureaucracy and make inter-state borders as transparent as between Switzerland and France.
Yet, Sargsyan's reason to come was pure business. Without any fuss at all. During his meeting with chair of parliament David Bakradze he emphasized necessity to activate inter-parliamentary connections and improve a legislative field aimed at development of cooperation between two countries. Naturally, the Armenian leader was interested in new transport routes and Georgia's new sea ports. "Construction of new North-South motorway will connect Yerevan and Batumi giving a new impulse to trade between two countries, - the guest highlighted. - 20% of all cargoes come to Armenia through Georgia, and new routes connecting us with Georgia's sea ports are particularly interesting". Sargsyan did not forget to remind Saakashvili of joint energy and trade projects as well. "This year the trade between the countries has gone up by 20%. Good, but not enough. We must do our best here", - he remarked.
Sargsyan's visit ended in signing agreements between the Ministries of Interior and the National Security Council of Armenia on border cooperation as well as an accord on partnership between the ministries of sport and youth issues.
The president of Armenia came on business while Saakashvili was full of empty rhetoric during Sargsyan's visit. It is not easy to evaluate prospects of cooperation in this situation. We asked Arnold Stepanyan, chair of Multinational Georgia public movement to give his outlook for development of ties between Armenia and Sakartvelo. "As for establishment of the Caucasian confederation it's too early to speak about that", - he said. - Honestly speaking, I would not say Saakashvili does not understand that. We often say that the president of Georgia commits a lot of inadequate acts. Yet, this is not the topic where he may have illusions. It's true that intensification of relationships is out of question. There are certain breakthroughs in the economic sphere. Besides, there are customs checkpoints expected to operate on a European principle of a free zone".
As for strategic partnership, this is a really interesting point, as our interlocutor thinks. "Basically, Georgia's national security concept does not consider Armenia as a strategic ally. Unlike Azerbaijan (by the way). Armenia is a partner with whom Georgia wants to develop relationships over up-to-date issues. Armenia's national concept has Georgia as an important partner with whom Yerevan will develop relationships. I don't see facts that would drive me to different conclusions", - the expert explained.
Answering the question if cooperation between Yerevan and Tbilisi can be called purely pragmatic, Arnold Stepanyan replied affirmatively. "We deal with specific benefits", - our interlocutor said. - Each country has its interest. Armenia is more focused on economy, while Georgia also has a political motivation. Saakashvili has his desire to present himself as a sort of regional leader. This is a different matter whether it is realistic and whether he copes with that role".