The messenger logo

Russia continues its efforts to re-open Abkhaz railway

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, August 25
Russia’s Foreign Ministry states that Russian soldiers are working on the restoration of the Abkhaz railway located on the territory of the de-facto region of Georgia.

The Russian officials stress that the soldiers were sent to the site in July 2015 to restore the railway route that carries much importance for Russia’s geopolitical interests.

Roughly 500 soldiers and 50 engineers have been mobilized for the objective, the Ministry states, noting that the target is the 33 km route from Ochamchire to Enguri.

The body also informs that the section was closed due to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict in 1992-1993 and says that the works are expected to be completed in December this year.

It is not hidden that the re-opening of the railway is in the best interests of Russia and Armenia.

Georgia was holding consultations with the Armenian and Russian sides in 2006 regarding the restoration of the railway. However, the negotiations yielded no outcome.

The Armenian media was speculating that the issue was discussed during the Armenian President’s visit to Georgia in June 2014. However, Georgian officials claimed that the issue was not on the agenda at all.

The Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality, Paata Zakareishvili, claimed that the issue should be discussed between Georgia and Russia; Akhazia should stand aside, as the de-facto region should not have any involvement in such issues. Zakareishvili stressed that it is a political issue, requiring better relations with Russia.

Analysts are in agreed that the railway has a regional connotation, and it might change the region’s countries’ geopolitical status. It is agreed that the opening of the railway is essentially important for Armenia as through the route, Armenia (which is blockaded on all sides due to its internal conflicts) will gain a direct land connection to Russia.

“Despite economic benefits, the opening of the route will be too significant from a political point of view. Through the opening of the route, Turkey’s increasing influence on Georgia will be reduced. We urgently require opening of the railway. However, it is beneficial for Georgia as well,” Armenian analyst Armen Saprastian stated.

Azeri analysts doubt that through the railway Russia might support Armenia with weapons. They stress that such a development might affect Georgian-Azerbaijan relations.

“Azerbaijan is a strategic partner for Georgia. We are carrying out investments in Georgia, providing the country with cheap gas. All these issues should be considered and Georgians should consult with the Azeri side,” Azeri analyst Farkhan Mekhtiev suggested.

Head of the Caucasus Research Centre Kakha Gogolashvili believes that the re-opening of the railway is in the interests of Russia and Turkey as well, as the countries would manage to have direct links.

“Re-opening the railway is a hard task, where each detail should be considered. However, from a political and economic point of view, the project is beneficial for Georgia as well. Georgians and Abkhazians will start joint economic projects that create nice bases for reconciliation. Herewith, when there are tight economic links between the countries, the risk of war goes down,” the analyst stated, noting that the re-opening of the railway will not cause any complications between Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Members of the opposition United National Movement party are against the re-opening as, according to them, Russia will use the route for its interests and against Georgia.

The fact is that Russia is actively working on the restoration of the route while the Georgian side keeps its silence. However, it is very likely that the issue will be introduced on the agenda in the near future.