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Georgian government: Talk of railway re-opening baseless

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, November 27
Cynicism has no boundaries. After signing the Alliance and Partnership treaty between Russia and Abkhazia, which has been called by the Georgian side an attempt at annexing the de-facto independent region, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin made a statement over the re-opening of the Abkhaz railway that was closed in 1992 owing to the conflict in Abkhazia. The Georgian side will discuss the issue only after the reintegration of the Georgian territories occupied by Russia. The opposition in Georgia suspects that confidential negotiations are taking place between Georgia and Russia concerning the railway. However, the fact is denied by the Georgian government.

During his meeting and signing the treaty with Abkhazia in Sochi, Putin admitted that rail traffic between Sokhumi and Yerevan via Tbilisi might be restored. He stressed that the topic might come about through negotiations. This claim was followed by the statement of Putin’s spokesman Vladimir Surkov, who stated that Georgia has never been against the restoration of the Abkhaz railway. He said that the sides, meaning Georgia, Abkhazia and Armenia, should think the issue over.

Georgia’s Special Envoy to Russia Zurab Abashidze states that the issue has never been discussed with Georgian officials. Georgia’s Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili suggested that such issues are resolved taking the state’s interests into account. “Our interest is the reintegration of our territories,” she said.

The opposition United National Movement, as well as the Free Democrats are demanding that the current government to make a clear refusal to the offer.

“We are categorically against the re-opening of the railway,” member of the Free Democrats Alex Petriashvili said.

Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Paata Zakareishvili denies the re-opening of the railway, stating no negotiations are underway over the issue.

The re-opening of the Abkhaz Railway is important for Russia, so it will have a direct link with Armenia, a country that has just become a member of Russia’s Eurasian Union. Thus, the railway is profitable for Armenia. However, the restoration of the railway runs counter to the interests of Azerbaijan.

Former head of the Georgia’s National Bank Roman Gotziridze states that the re-opening of the railway will be very unprofitable for Georgia. He stresses that the opened railway will pose serious threats for Batumi and Poti ports and will significantly decrease their income. He also admits that unlike checkpoints, closing the railway will be hard for Georgia in the case of a confrontation.

An interesting statement was made by Armenian politician Shirak Torosian. He said that signing the treaty between Russia and Abkhazia seriously hurt the possibility of the re-opening of the railway.

What Russia’s aims are with regard to this railway will become clearer as time goes by.