Victor Yushchenko and Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia held a joint press conference in Tbilisi on Thursday after meeting one-on-one and chairing Ukrainian-Georgian talks, president's press office reported.

The Ukrainian leader said the two countries “considerably reinforced” economic ties last year, with the trade rate reaching USD 500 mln in 2006.

“It is our key priority now to sign a free trade agreement,” he said, adding that it contained only two problematic issues, which he hopes to resolve “easily.”

Yushchenko said they had discussed how to build a railroad to connect Baku, Tbilisi and Kars, and open a ferryboat route between the Ukrainian port of Kerch and Georgia’s Batumi. They also spoke about regional cooperation and energy issues, particularly creating a Eurasian oil corridor.

“I would like to reiterate that our relationship with Georgia is a special relationship,” he said.

Yushchenko and Saakashvili agreed to develop humanitarian and cultural ties. The Ukrainian president suggested launching an exchange program so that Georgian students could study in Ukraine. He expressed hopes that this year’s Year of Georgia in Ukraine would help enhance our cooperation. He then thanked Tbilisi National University for opening a Ukrainian literature and philology department and welcomed tomorrow’s opening of a monument honoring the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.

The two leaders also spoke about international issues, especially Georgia’s relations with Russia. 

Mikhail Saakashvili described his country’s economic cooperation with Ukraine as an “example of how two countries can cooperate.”

“We see only friends in Ukraine,” he said.


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