PM Bidzina Ivanishvili says there are some question marks about constructions of Baku-Akhalkalaki-Kars railway, designed to link Azerbaijan with Turkey via Georgia, and he will raise these issues with the Azerbaijani leadership during his planned visit to Baku.
President Saakashvili responded that PM Ivanishvili’s remarks, questioning the Baku-Akhalkalaki-Kars railway project, was “alarming” and in conflict with Georgia’s strategic interests and the country’s pro-western policies.
PM Ivanishvili spoke about the railway project, construction of which was launched in 2007, in an interview with the Georgian daily Rezonansi, published on December 21, when he was responding a question about Georgia’s potential as a transit country.
“Our location is really very interesting from the geopolitical point of view and of course this potential needs to be used. Situation is difficult in this regard too and lots of work needs to be done, because other states also try to shift these routes on their side,” the Prime Minister said.
“To put it mildly, construction of the Kars-Akhalkalaki railway triggers questions,” PM Ivanishvili continued. “I may have to ask questions about it when I visit Azerbaijan and to explain it very mildly to our friendly country that at certain point it might not be useful for us and it needs to be regulated. It won’t be easy, because the process is already launched and the construction is underway. It required a proper analysis publicly and involvement of experts on the initial stage; it would have been easier before the launch of the construction, now it is very difficult.”
“We should respect commitments undertaken by the previous government and our neighboring countries, but at the same time there are some issues which need answers,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that Georgia’s favorable geographical location should be used “efficiently.” “We spend lot of time on working over this issue. My [planned] visit to Azerbaijan serves this purpose. Then I also plan to visit Armenia and then Turkey as well,” he said.
Ivanishvili also said that there was a huge potential of partnership with Kazakhstan in terms of transit and economic issues and also added that these issues related with transit routes should also be part of discussions with Russia.
“Together with political issues, we will also have discussions with Russia about transit issues,” Ivanishvili said, adding that his government would only be guided by the interests of Georgia.
“At the same time I promise and give guarantee to the people that everything will be done transparently. Very often governments, not only in Georgia but in other countries as well, were turning such strategic facilities into a priority of their own pockets,” Ivanishvili said.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s remarks, President Saakashvili said on December 21, that such attitude towards the important regional projects was not in line with Georgia’s pro-western policies.
“I am very alarmed with this statement,” Saakashvili said, adding that Baku-Akhalkalaki-Kars railway project was a route for Georgia to get direct access to Europe bypassing Russia.
Saakashvili also claimed that “talks are underway to fully switch to the Russian electricity in exchange of something”, which, he said, would “eliminate Georgia’s energy independence.”
He said that government’s position on these two issues – one on railway project and another one on electricity, “is distancing us from Europe” and putting Georgia in “bondage” with Russia.
“It contradicts to everything that we have been doing in recent years and no matter of declarations that we want NATO and the EU, if in practice you intend to do what I have been speaking about, then I understand very well why [Russia’s President Vladimir] Putin welcomed positive signals from the Georgian government,” Saakashvili said.
“For Putin it is important to have Georgia attached [to Russia] in energy [sector], transportation and if it happens then declarations about ‘we want NATO’ won’t mean nothing,” Saakashvili said. “So I demand strongly to review these issues and to have serious public discussions about these issues and [demand] the government not to take any decisions about these issues.”