The Georgian government has denied reports that it gave its go-ahead to reopening of the Georgian-Russian railway via breakaway Abkhazia, but said it was open for discussions on the matter as numerous “technical and political” issues are required to be clarified.
According to reports by the Armenian news agencies on September 6, Secretary of the Armenian National Security Council, Artur Baghdasaryan, said that Moscow, Tbilisi and Sokhumi agreed to reopen the Abkhaz section of the railway, which would provide Armenia a rail link with Russia.
“The Georgian side gave its consent; the Russian and Abkhaz sides did it too. But that’s the process and we have to understand that there is a conflict situation,” Baghdasaryan was quoted by the Yerevan-based Novosti Armenia news agency. “But it is important that there is a political will to reopen this railway and in overall to develop the railway communication and it is reflected in the joint statement [of the Armenian and Russian presidents].”
The Georgian government said on September 6, that the statement by the Secretary of NSC that Tbilisi agrees on reopening of the Abkhaz railway “is not true.”
“The Georgian government has previously expressed interest towards this issue and is still ready to consider this initiative. But it does not mean that any decision has already been made,” the Georgian government said in its written statement.
“We do confirm that the Georgian government is studying the possibility of restoration of the railway and deems it might be interesting, but there is a long way to go before taking any decision. Numerous political and technical issues have to be clarified; discussions should also be held and public opinion formed,” reads the statement.
“At this stage the Georgian government has not taken any official decision over restoration of the railway via Abkhazia,” it says, adding that it would be “premature” to make any hasty statements.
The most recently when PM Ivanishvili commented on the issue was on March 14, when he said that the Georgian government had “a political will” to reopen Georgia-Russia railway via breakaway Abkhazia, but was taking “a cautious approach” as this issue should be resolved in the context of boarder problems related to Russia and “occupied territories.”
Georgian PM’s special representative for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, said on September 6 that the issue of the Abkhaz railway was not raised in talks with his Russian interlocutor, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin.
“We are not talking on this issue with the Russian side,” Abashidze said. “But if there is any initiative from the Russian side, some kind of a proposal, we are ready to listen how they view reopening of this railway. We are not saying that we will never talk about it; we can talk about it and listen to Russia’s view on the matter how do they see it happening, based on the principle of Georgia’s territorial integrity.”
Secretary of the Georgian National Security Council, Giga Bokeria, said that reopening of the Abkhaz railway contains “serious risks.”
“Implementation of such a project should become possible only if it is part of a package that would also resolve the issue of de-occupation,” Bokeria said. “I hope the Georgian government will not make a fundamental mistake, which will harm country’s interests.”