Georgia has held no negotiations with Russia yet on the idea of reactivating a railway connecting the two estranged countries which is strongly backed by Armenia, Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said during a visit to Yerevan on Friday.
“We haven’t started working on that,” Panjikidze told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We will identify the interests of Georgia, and if we see that Georgia can benefit from this then maybe we will form a working group and the working group will study the situation, after which a decision may be taken.”
“But it is too early to speak about the rehabilitation [of the railway,]” she said. “It was just an idea which was first announced here during the visit of the prime minister [Bidzina Ivanishvili] to Yerevan. But nothing concrete is done because it’s just an idea.”
Ivanishvili voiced support for the restoration of the Russian-Georgian rail link passing through the breakaway region of Abkhazia during his January 17 trip to Armenia. His Armenian counterpart, Tigran Sarkisian, reaffirmed Yerevan’s strong interest in seeing the Abkhaz railway reactivated.
The railway, which used to serve as a lifeline road for landlocked Armenia, has been closed since the outbreak of a bloody war in Abkhazia in 1992. Its relaunch would lower transportation costs in Armenia’s import and export operations that are mainly carried out through Georgian territory.
Visiting Yerevan last month, Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania indicated that the new government in Tbilisi will move cautiously towards the reopening of the railway. “We should do that in a very delicate way, without haste,” Alasania said.
Russian-Georgian tensions have somewhat eased since Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream alliance swept to power last fall. Moscow has lifted its controversial bans on imports of Georgian wine and mineral water in recent weeks.
Panjikidze spoke after holding talks with Tigran Sarkisian, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian. She met with President Serzh Sarkisian later in the day.
Official Armenian statements on Panjikidze’s meetings in Yervan made no mention of the railway issue. Prime Minister Sarkisian was quoted as stressing the importance of creating “a single market” in the two neighboring states. “In that context, the parties addressed cooperation in agriculture, transport and other economic areas,” said the statement issued by his press office.
“It’s a sign of friendship and very intensive partnership that we are meeting each other so frequently, almost every month,” Panjikidze said of her talks with Nalbandian.
“Armenia is our friendly neighbor and we are very much interested in deepening and strengthening the relationship with Armenia,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “And I think we are doing this.”