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A railway argument: Karasin didn’t persuade Abashidze to open the road

In Prague took place the meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Grigory Karasin and Envoy of the Prime Minister of Georgia for the settlement of relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze. The meeting focused on the normalization of Russian-Georgian relations and the situation on the border between South Ossetia and Georgia. In the list of the discussed topics was included also the issue of the possibility of resumption of the Abkhaz railway.

After the meeting, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin announced that «had been discussed all the issues, including the railway”. “We have agreed that the consideration of this type issue may be hypothetical, and the final decision should take the leaders of Abkhazia and Georgia through their direct contact,» said Karasin.

In his turn, Abashidze said that the approach of the Russian side on the railway through the self-proclaimed republic of Abkhazia was absolutely unacceptable. «Their position is the following: if you, that is, the Georgian side, are interested in it, then discuss this issue with Abkhaz and other neighbors. Our answer is that we’re not interested,» assumed Abashidze.

Before the meeting of Karasin and Abashidze, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia Giorgy Kvirikashvili declared that the restoration of the railway in the Abkhazian section was out of the agenda. «In these circumstances, when we see absolutely inadequate actions, when an agreement is signed on the integration of our regions, the restoration of any transit is out of the agenda», he said.

Associate Professor, Department of foreign area studies and foreign policy of Russian State Humanitarian University Sergey Markedonov in his interview to RUSARMINFO says that the issue of the Abkhazian railway is not that much economic, rather than political issue. «It’s a question of readiness of the Abkhaz de facto state and its society for the resumption of the railway communication through Georgia to Armenia. There is much fear that the railway will be some tool of georgianisation,” believes the expert. In addition, Markedonov mentions Azerbaijan’s unwillingness to alleviate the problems in the transport blockade of Armenia. «Shortly after coming to power, Bidzina Ivanishvili had the idea of the opening of railways, but Azerbaijani politicians reacted very harshly to this. It was clear that the expansion of relations between Armenia and the outside world are not beneficial for Azerbaijan. Baku has a strong influence on Georgia economically, and this factor, I would not dismiss,» concludes Markedonov.

Director of the Center for Public Policy Researches Vladimir Yevseyev, in his interview to RUSARMINFO notes that the Abkhazian railway is important in the context of Eurasian integration. «The resumption of communication though the Abkhazian railway is an important event for Armenia, however, Georgia isn’t in good situation nowadays. Running trains would be for Armenia, as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, a huge stimulus for economic development. In the reopening of this railway section is also interested the Turkish business in Abkhazia which could be contacted through Georgia to Turkey,» he says.

In his interview to RUSARMINFO, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia Oleg Arshba says that «the railway in Abkhazia functions, successfully implementing the export and import of goods and passenger traffic. And if there are interested parties in the transit of their goods through our country’s railways, they should negotiate with the Abkhaz leadership.»

«There’re no such negotiations. I can not speak instead of the leadership, but I consider it necessary to examine this issue and take into account the interests of our country,» concluded Oleg Arshba.

In the Soviet era the Abkhaz railway was part of the Transcaucasian Railway. After its collapse it was divided into Abkhaz, Armenian and Georgian Railways, the site of the Azerbaijani-Georgian border to the station «Boyuk-Cacique» was handed over to the Azerbaijan Railways. After the Georgian-Abkhaz armed conflict in 1992 the traffic on this railway was stopped. As a result, between Armenia and Russia still there is no rail connection. The trains do not follow in the direction of Turkey as well.

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