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Don’t the rails become rusty…

The question of traffic restoration throughout the railroad in the Caucasus wasn't discussed at all when the real power in Georgia belonged to Mikheil Saakashvili. But when the parliamentary elections in the fall of 2012 were won by Bidzina Ivanishvili's coalition “The Georgian dream”, this subject came under the spotlight. Especially as in January Bidzina Ivanishvili declared possibility of restoration of railway communication with Abkhazia which was interrupted in 1992, after settlement of a number of controversial questions with Russia.

The opening of the Abkhazian site of the railroad would become an event of huge positive value for the region. In Armenia, for example, right were asked a question: would the long-term undeclared blockade of the country really end?! But not everything is so simple! The Caucasus is the major knot in difficult geopolitical game. And it is obvious that the opponents of traffic restoration on the Abkhazian site are not less than supporters of this idea. The position of representatives of the Georgian political elite is very characteristic in this sense.

Let's begin with president Mikheil Saakashvili who wanted to resolve “Abkhazian issue” by blitzkrieg and as a result hid from a plane shadow in Gori … It is clear that he stays now in the status of “lame duck”, but he is head of state after all till the fall.

Saakashvili is sure that restoration of the railroad work is equitable only to the interests of Russia: “The hasty decision on the specified question can be harmful to Georgia. Russia illegally appropriated the railroad of Abkhazia. If we give such opportunity to Russia, so it would be the economic expansion of the Caucasus - taking into account that Russia also bought the railroad of Armenia. Georgia would receive nothing from it, and, at the same time, it will complicate the reintegration of Abkhazia”.

The minister of questions of reintegration Paata Zakareishvili has to improve the relations with Abkhazia. Originally he declared that the Georgian authorities are ready to restore railway communication in a framework of “strategy on a deisolation of Abkhazia”. And then noticed that the subject isn't actual any more as allegedly the Abkhazian party didn't show the interest …

Later the relay was accepted by the Minister of Economics and a sustainable development of Georgia George Kvirikashvili. He was expressed as follows: “At this stage this question isn't considered in an active regime as this is a difficult political subject and the solution of this question is very hard. In particular, it concerns the Russian-Georgian relations, however our position is firm according to that the fence-mending with Abkhazians is welcomed in Georgia and we’ll do everything for this purpose”. That is, also we are glad, but it doesn't turn out in any way. And, certainly, not because of the new democratic power in Georgia …

But the director of Association of reforms of Georgia, earlier working as the Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia Sergi Kapanadze spoke most in detail:

“If to restore the rail service through Abkhazia, it theoretically has to have positive consequences for all. But now it is not that situation, neither political, nor geopolitical, nor economic which would promote an embodiment of this idea in life. Today Georgia is least interested in this project and most of all - Armenia and Russia.

It is not clear what economic benefit will be received by Georgia. Besides the opening of such road can have negative consequences for the cargo transportation through Poti port, for the rail service on a transit route of Baku-Akhalkalaki-Kars. As earlier a few years ago, we raised a question of renewal of the rail service, we connected the political affairs with it.

Calculation was – we will begin the work and then we will turn to other questions such as return of refugees. In 2005 even the memorandum of creation of consortium was ready the signatures under which the delivered representatives of the railroads of Georgia, Russia and Armenia put. Representatives of Sukhumi refused at the last minute. But then the Georgian party still agreed on such project as we placed emphasis on obtaining of the political dividends. However today it isn't clear what political dividends we will receive.

Yes, there is an opinion that the project is important from the point of view of conflict transformation. But why it is necessary to restore the contacts and trust from the railroad at this stage? There is no free traffic from Inguri to Psou now. So let's coordinate this question in the beginning. How we will restore the rail service when such issues aren't solved? And the opening of the railway road will be coordinated with the international corridor of customs monitoring created at the entry of the Russian Federation in the WTO.

And even if these issues will be resolved, it is not clear as far as it will be good in a context of regional projects, the relations with other countries, for example Azerbaijan. There is also other important question. Who will participate in the project - Georgia, Russia, Armenia and Abkhazia? Four these subjects as four states? Or their railroads? Then it is necessary to remember that Abkhazian and Armenian railway belong to the Russian railroad. I expect also that this question will be connected with a question of the status of Abkhazia in a certain degree. Probably, the formulation which the Russian or Abkhazian parties make will be such - let's do it in that format which will provide the sovereignty of Abkhazia anyway.

The question is also who will guarantee the safety of transportation of freights. In 2005 when there was a speech about the memorandum, Abkhazia was going to guarantee safety of the road from Ochamchir to Psou, peacekeepers - from Zugdidi to Ochamchir. And it is unclear how it will be now. The question is what kind of freights will be transported. It will be the transit to Armenia, a stop in Georgia, or how? Will it be the usual goods turnover or also transportation of military freights?

We start talking on this subject, though we are not that party which is most interested in the project. At the same time I don't understand why the question is brought up with Yerevan and isn't considered in other formats. This question should be discussed not with Armenia, but with Moscow. Armenia is interested in the project, but here it is not our main partner”.

At last, the prime minister of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili spoke also: “Nothing will occur to the detriment of our country. Restoration of the road will be on advantage of all. It will be a positive, but some time is required for this purpose. Everything will be made step by step that there were no questions”.

But as we see the questions remain. Also there is a resistant feeling that as one will be decided, immediately there will be others – even more difficult …

Viewed : 703   Commented: 0

Author: Vladimir Kuzmenkin

Publication date : 04 March 2013 01:00

Source: The world and we

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