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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU, Caucasus Draw Closer

LUXEMBOURG -- The European Union met with leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to prepare for new partnership and cooperation pacts that come into force July 1.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said at the meeting Tuesday that the EU, mindful of its own security concerns as it expands into Eastern Europe early next century, would be paying more attention to the southern Caucasus region in its foreign policy.

"As the EU expands eastward, our relations with the countries around the Black Sea and beyond will acquire added importance. The peace and stability of those regions will become more significant for the security of Europe as a whole," Fischer said.

Georgia's President Eduard Shevardnadze said the day was drawing near when Georgia and other former Soviet states would become members of the EU and NATO.

"If processes under way in today's world continue at the current pace, the membership in all major Euro-Atlantic and European structures of Georgia and several other new independent states is inevitable," he said.

The new partnership and cooperation agreements, which were signed in 1996, set up cooperation between the EU and the three countries on political, trade and investment issues.

But the three nations and the EU acknowledged that ethnic conflict in the region - notably between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorny Karabakh - would have to be resolved to pave the way for real economic recovery.