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Russian Railway ‘Very Interested’ Abkhaz Link


Armenia - Vladimir Yakunin (L), chief of Russia's state railway, and Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian inaugurate a new rail depot in Gyumri, 28May2013.

Armenia - Vladimir Yakunin (L), chief of Russia's state railway, and Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian inaugurate a new rail depot in Gyumri, 28May2013.

Russia’s state-owned national railway on Tuesday expressed support for the idea of restoring a rail link with Georgia and Armenia passing through Abkhazia, which has been floated by the new Georgian government.

“We are very interested in the position of the Georgian leadership in terms of the possibilities of restoring traffic from Russia to Georgia and on to Armenia via Abkhazia. It would open up new opportunities,” Vladimir Yakunin, the chief executive of the RZhD network, told journalists in Gyumri.

Yakunin stressed at the same time that the reactivation of the railway, which used to serve as a lifeline road for landlocked Armenia, requires “political decisions” by all interested parties.

The railway has been closed since the outbreak of a bloody secessionist war in Abkhazia in 1992. Visiting Yerevan in January, Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said his government supports its rehabilitation in principle.

The Armenian government welcomed that announcement. The relaunch of cargo train service across Abkhazia would lower transportation costs in Armenia’s import and export operations that are mainly carried out through Georgian territory.

Other Georgian officials cautioned afterwards, however, that the new authorities in Tbilisi will be treading carefully on the issue despite their desire to improve Russian-Georgian ties. “It is too early to speak about the rehabilitation [of the railway,]” Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in Yerevan in April.

Renewed rail traffic between Georgia and Russia would have a direct bearing on RZhD operations also because the Russian transport company, the third largest in the world, manages Armenia’s rail network. Yakunin spoke to reporters on Tuesday after he and Prime Minister Sarkisian inaugurated a newly built railway depot in Gyumri.
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