By Emil Danielyan and Ruben Meloyan
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian announced on Wednesday a full restoration of Armenia’s transport communication with the outside world that was disrupted by the conflict between neighboring Georgia and Russia.
He also said that Georgia is gradually restoring supplies of Russian natural gas to Armenia via its territory to pre-conflict levels.
The volume of those deliveries was abruptly cut by Georgian authorities following the August 8 outbreak of fighting in South Ossetia that spread to other parts of the country.
Armenia also uses Georgian territory and the Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi, in particular, for carrying out the bulk of its foreign trade. Poti was among civilian and military targets across Georgia attacked by Russian warplanes in recent days.
“As regards the transportation of goods [to and from Armenia,] there were problems for two days for the simple reason that people were scared of shipping goods through the ports of Poti and Batumi because of hostilities,” Sarkisian told journalists in televised remarks. “But because the hostilities have stopped the cargo turnover has been fully restored.”
“So there is absolutely no need to worry that we won’t be able to meet demand in some goods,” he said. “We have sufficient reserves of basic goods.” He specified that Armenia’s stockpiles of wheat and fuel will suffice to meet domestic demand for six and one months respectively.
The premier’s assurances appeared to contradict the latest statements by Armenia’s consul-general in Batumi. The diplomat, Hakob Haji-Hakobian, said that Poti was again bombarded overnight. “The port of Poti is not functioning,” he told RFE/RL by phone. “They are neither accepting nor sending cargos right now.”
Armenian businessmen dealing with cargo shipments claimed the opposite later in the day, however. Vladimir Badalian, co-chairman of an Armenian-Georgian business association, said: “I’ve just phoned the deputy director of the Poti port. He said the port is working and there are no problems.”
According to Gagik Aghajanian, deputy director of the cargo company Apaven, a Swiss-owned ferry laden with 300 freight containers, one third of them bound for Armenia, was able to dock at Poti late Tuesday. “They began to unload the containers an hour ago,” he told RFE/RL in the afternoon.
Armenia also continued to evacuate thousands of its citizens spending their vacations in Batumi and nearby seaside resorts. According to the Foreign Ministry, another 1,520 of them have returned home since Tuesday evening, raising to about 13,000 the total number of evacuees. Haji-Hakobian said there are several hundred Armenian vacationers remaining on the Georgian Black Sea cost.