TBILISI, DFWatch — Georgia’s State Minister for Reintegration Issues says that the government should support restoring overland transportation with Russia through breakaway Abkhazia.
Minister Paata Zakareishvili said this in an interview with the newspaper Kommersant, and led to a lively discussion in Georgian and Russian media.
Abkhazia is a Georgian territory located on the Black Sea coast bordering with Russia. It is currently occupied by Russia, so Georgian legislation isn’t enforced there. Transport movement between Russia and Georgia through Abkhazia was suspended in the beginning of 1990s, when Abkhazia attempted to separate from Georgia, supported by Russia. Due to military actions, transport movement was stopped, including railway movement.
The railway connection between Russia and Georgia had significant importance, as it used to be the only connection between Russia and South Caucasus countries, and countries sharing a border withSouth Caucasus countries, including Iran. There is one railway alternative, which connects Russia with Azerbaijan and can connect to other countries through it, but the line goes through North Caucasus republics, where there is no stable situation, so this route is considered dangerous.
The railway through Georgia is therefore important, but despite this, transport between Russia Georgia has never been restored for the last twenty years due to the difficult political situation. In 2003, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to restore railway movement and to return refugees, but this wasn’t fulfilled.
Few days ago Paata Zakareishvili told Commersant that Georgian government should support restoration of transport movement with Russia through Abkhazia, but he also remarked that it is necessary to exclude political add-ins for this and solve the problem through economic way.
He says earlier Georgian government always related restoration of railway to returning Georgian refugees in Abkhazia, but in the beginning it was obvious that it didn’t seem to be realistic.
“Georgia couldn’t achieve anything: none of refugees have returned. If we agreed to restore railway movement in its time, for years many refugees would have returned back to Abkhazia and no one would restrict them to, even in case of lack of official agreement,” Zakareishvili says.
Zakareishvili expressed being sure that restoration of railway movement will help process to regulate issue of Abkhazia and underlined that it is not necessary to observe it in documents or to attach it to anything.
Zakareishvili considers the plan can be implemented starting from freight trains.
“If we did this in 2003, by now passenger trains would have been moving there as well. It is not correct to raise issues in politics this way: everything or nothing.”
Minister says railway movement restoration issue wasn’t discussed on the level of governments, but there were certain consultations.
“We shouldn’t let Abkhazia being attached only to Russia in regards of economy and transport; if we open movement in our direction Abkhazia will have alternative. Russia, Georgia and Armenia will use this railway. This way our country’s transport and geopolitical importance will increase: freight wagons will move from East to West, but also from North to South.”
No other government officials comment on this issue yet, as well as representatives of previous government, but Paata Davitaia, politician of previous government considers this statement concerning and called for parliament ‘not to seriously discuss it.’