On May 30-31, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan made his first visit to Georgia, his first official foreign trip. Pashinyan had earlier met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Eurasian Economic Union summit. Prior to Pashinyan taking on the post of prime minister, as well as during the parliamentary elections, Pashinyan had repeatedly highlighted the importance of Armenian-Georgian relations. This is the first time that a new Armenian government leader made Georgia their first official trip. This signals a change in Armenia’s perception of Armenian-Georgian relations.
Pashinyan's visit coincided with the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of declaration of the first republics of Armenia and Georgia. It is noteworthy that on May 26, only a few days prior Nikol Pashinyan’s visit, Armenia’s President Armen Sarkissian had visited Tbilisi to attend the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the First Republic of Georgia.
In Georgia, Nikol Pashinyan received at the highest level by the Georgian president, prime minister and the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church. The Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili also underlined the importance of Pashinyan's visit to Georgia as his first official destination.
Pashinyan also visited the seat of the Armenian Diocese of Georgia, the Armenian Pantheon (the cemetery of noted Armenian artists) and was jubilantly received by the Armenian community of Tbilisi.
During his visit to Georgia, Nikol Pashinyan paid a visit to the mainly Armenian-populated Samtskhe-Javakheti region. He was accompanied by the Georgian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze.
The last visit to Javakhk by a leader of Armenia was in 1996 by President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, accompanied by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. The second and third presidents of Armenia Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan made numerous visits to Georgia, but during the 20 years of their tenure they never visited Javakhk.
Nikol Pashinyan was warmly welcomed by residents in the Armenian villages, as well as in the regional center Akhalkalaki. At the meeting with Akhalkalaki residents he emphasized the importance of Armenian-Georgian relations and stated, "I have no doubt that the Georgian government will do its utmost to support the strengthening of Armenia and Armenian people, to promote prosperity and happiness, and we in our turn will do our utmost to strengthen the Georgian state and the happiness of the Georgian people."
Javakhk has always been a sensitive issue for all the Georgian governments, given the context of separatist movements in the country. During his visit to Georgia, Pashinyan has made clear that Armenia will not instigate anything that will harm their bilateral relations.
Georgia is strategically important for Armenia. Nearly 70 percent of Armenia's foreign trade goes through Georgia. A sizable Armenian population lives on Georgia’s border with Armenia, as well as in Tbilisi.
This visit is important in the context of Armenia’s and Georgia’s divergent foreign policies. After the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, Georgia severed diplomatic ties with Russia. It signed an Association Agreement and free trade deal with the European Union in 2013 and seeks NATO membership. Armenia has strategic military and political partnership with Russia. It is a member of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
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Nikol Pashinyan visits Georgia
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Georgian Patriarch receives Armenian Prime Minister