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Railways in Abkhazia

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, March 26
Since October's parliamentary election in Georgia, the issue of reconstructing the railway line in Abkhazia connecting Georgia with Russia has been the subject of much speculation. The topic was touched upon by some of the leaders of the Georgian Dream coalition. However, it should be mentioned that the reopening of the railways is in the interest of Russia and Armenia probably more so than that of Georgia. That said, much depends on the conditions under which the railways will be opened.

Everybody remembers the issue of Russia entering the World Trade Organization (WTO) where Georgia was bargaining for many years but eventually due to the incompetence of the previous administration or maybe even for the deliberate steps it had made, Georgia has received nothing as a result of its consent in Russia joining WTO.

Eventually, the issue was touched upon by Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and Minister of Reintegration, Paata Zakareishvili. However, soon afterwards, Zakareishvili said that the issue is closed for the time being because the Abkhaz side said it was against. Needless to say, PM Ivanishvili said the issue requires some time and serious consideration.

The opposition United National Movement (UNM) and its leader Mikheil Saakashvili considered this possibility as a step targeted at supporting Russian interests, which contradicts the promotion of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project.

Armenia, meanwhile, is very enthusiastic about implementation of this project, as this will be a very important breakthrough for Armenia to escape the isolation it faces today. Azerbaijan, however, is absolutely against such an option and believes it targets against the interests of Azerbaijan. Russia is approaching this issue very seriously.

After meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 12, 2013, his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan mentioned that one of the major issues the two presidents had discussed referred to the possibility of the re-establishment of the railways in Abkhazia. The Armenian President also said that there are problems from both the Georgian and Abkhazian sides. He confirmed that his country has the utmost interest in this issue and shared his expectations.

Abkhazian de facto President Alexander Ankvab later denied discussing this issue with President Putin. This comment has likely embarrassed the Armenian side. However it does not mean a lot, because if Putin decides anything, he can easily receive any type of positive response from the Abkhazia's puppet regime.

Meanwhile, Saakashvili once again repeated that the opening of railways will be damaging for Georgian and Azerbaijani interests. However, Saakashvili forgot to say that during the UNM's leadership, the issue of selling the Georgian railways was raised several times, but luckily, it was not implemented because the Russian and Armenian buyers were ready to make a deal.

It could be concluded that the issue of restoring the railway in Abkhazia is being discussed in different countries, although it is not loudly expressed to the public. It would be interesting if the Georgian government distinctly determines its position and declares its possible steps in this direction.