TBILISI, DFWatch–The plan to reopen a railway through breakaway Abkhazia came up during a NATO seminar in Tbilisi.
Lawrence Scott Sheets, South Caucasus Project Director for the International Crisis Group, said during the 83rd Rose Roth Seminar of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly in Tbilisi that he thinks reopening this railway may cause difference of opinions and it will also be very expensive.
He said it is understandable that the construction of the railway has a humanitarian goal and also establishing trade connections, but he thinks it is possible to establish trade relations by sea.
Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, Deputy Minister of Reintegration, who was also present at Tuesday’s session, said that Georgia is ready to start considering this issue, but there are no changes yet.
“We haven’t received official response on this issue from Russia and there never has been a reaction on the level of experts,” she said, adding that Abkhazians were categorically against this issue at first, but later their position has softened.
The idea to reopen the railway through Abkhazia, which was closed in 1990s during the war, was first heard after the change of government last October, when the minister for reintegration suggested it.
The now closed railway connects Russia to the South Caucasus and to countries in the Middle East like Iran. There is also one alternative railway that runs thought Azerbaijan, but it goes through the volatile North Caucasus region and is not considered safe.
If we agreed to restore railway traffic, for years many refugees will return to Abkhazia and no one will prevent them, even without official agreement,” Minister of Reintegration said in November.
The option is unacceptable to the president and his allies, who have painted it as a trick concocted by Russia.