By Aza Babayan in Moscow
Armenia’s rail communication with Russia via Georgia, disrupted by the Abkhaz conflict more than a decade ago, could resume by the end of next year, Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin said on Tuesday.
Levitin was speaking to reporters after a meeting in Moscow of a Russian-Armenian inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation which he co-chairs together with Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. This and other transport-related issues featured large during the talks that also touched upon bilateral trade and Russian involvement in the Armenia’s energy sector.
Levitin said he believes that it is now possible to restore the rail link, once vital for the Armenian economy, before a resolution of the conflict in Abkhazia. The Georgian government has until now regarded that as the main precondition for reopening the railway. One of its key sections passes through the lush Black Sea region that seceded from Georgia in 1993.
Levitin reported progress on the issue after talks with Georgian officials in Tbilisi on November 1. Two days later, the state-run railway companies of Armenia and Russia announced the creation of a joint venture which is meant to ship cargo between the two countries.
The lack of rail communication with Russia and other countries makes export-oriented Armenian companies less competitive and hampers foreign investment in Armenia’s struggling economy. It is also a serious hindrance to Russian-Armenian economic ties.