TBILISI, DFWatch–The Georgian government denies information from Armenia’s Secretary of National Security Council Artur Baghdasaryan that Georgia has agreed to open the railway through Abkhazia.
Baghdasaryan said Georgia, Russia and Abkhazia had all agreed to reopen the railway, which was closed in the 1990s during the war. He said that despite the conflict, there must be a political will to reopen the railway and to develop railway communications.
According to Armenian news agency News-Armenia, said that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan discussed opening the railway with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. At the meeting, Sargsyan said Armenia is interested in joining the customs’ union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which is considered the basis for the planned Eurasian Union.
The Georgian government responded that it has never agreed to reopen the railway, but that it has expressed interest in the idea earlier and is ready to discuss the initiative now.
“However, this doesn’t mean that any decisions have been made yet,” it wrote in a statement.
The statement continues saying that the government is studying the Abkhazian railway issue and considers it interesting, but more time is needed in order to make a decision; to clarify political and technical issues; to have discussion and learn about the public’s views.
In the election campaign in 2012, before coming into government, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili promised to open the railway through Abkhazia.
During a visit to Armenia in January 2013, he said he thinks it is possible to restore the railway, but that it is not simple to solve the problematic relations Georgia has with Russia and Abkhazia.
Later in March, he said that the government is ‘carefully handling the issue of reopening the railway.’
Zurab Abashidze, Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Russian Relations, told DF Watch that he has never discussed the railway issue with his counterpart Gregory Karasin, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, during their regular talks. He thinks that if there comes an initiative from Russia, Georgia is ready to listen, but it must happen based on the principles of Georgia’s territorial integrity.
Giga Bokeria, Secretary of Georgia’s Security Council and a member of the National Movement, on Saturday responded to the statement by his Armenian colleague, saying that it is in Georgia’s strategic interest, its sovereignty and economy, to complete the current Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. Opening the railway through Abkhazia, on the other hand, would involve ‘serious risks.’
“We must be very careful when Russia is a partner. Especially because it goes through occupied territory,” he said, adding that implementation of such a project ought to be possible if it was part of a package which included ending the occupation.
“I hope the government won’t make a fundamental mistake, which will harm the interests of our country.”