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Regional cooperation in the works?

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, September 26
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin has stated that during the Soviet period there were tunnel and road projects in Georgia that would lead to Russia. He claims that these projects are still “alive.”

“I think we may reach an agreement on specific infrastructure projects in the near future,” Karasin said.

Georgia’s Special Envoy to Russia Zurab Abashidze informed that the Russian official meant constructing a tunnel to Larsi checkpoint.

“There is a project concerning building a tunnel to the Mleta-Kobi section. Such a tunnel would have solved the weather related problems on the border. This is not just a Russian-Georgian border, this is also an economic border of Russia-Armenia and Russia-Turkey,” Abashidze stated, adding that all these countries are interested in fulfilling the project.

“This is a very expensive international project. Russian, Turkish, and Armenian companies can participate in it. I will discuss the issue during my next visit with Mr. Karasin. When we achieve an agreement, the appropriate bodies will start working on its implementation,” Abashidze said.

State Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality of Georgia Paata Zakareishvili stated that Georgia is ready to discuss any issue with Russia.

“However, this does not mean consent”, he said.

Analyst in conflict issues Malkhaz Chemia told The Messenger that such projects are essential for civilized relations and reducing threats in the region.

“We should not forget that economic interests create politics. Each conflict is mainly based on economic interests,” Chemia states.

“The fact that Russia launched talks over the issue is a sign that it somehow guessed that peaceful relations with neighbors might be more profitable for its interests. Russia is in need of such economic projects following the sanctions against it concerning Ukraine,” Chemia states.

The analyst said that several of such tunnels were started during Soviet times.

“If they are pushed forward, the Caucasus countries will create a united economic space that is in the interests of all the actors. For instance, currently Armenia stands aside, and is not involved in any serious economic activities in the region. In the case of developing infrastructure and the routes, Armenia will become an active player. If not economic interests, the country will be one of the sources of destabilization in the region,” the analyst said. Chemia stressed that launching the process should be preceded by talks about profits and interests that will lead to politics. “It is very natural that serious economic interests will decrease the threat of conflict,” Chemia said.