Transport Minister Vahan Martirosian expressed hope on Wednesday that Russia and Georgia will agree after all to open new transport corridors that would facilitate Armenia’s foreign trade.
Senior Russian and Georgian diplomats have been discussing the possibility of reviving a 2011 agreement meant to enable their countries to maintain commercial ties in the absence of diplomatic relations. They have specifically looked into modalities of reopening two highways that used to connect Georgia to Russia via the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The two sides would hire a Swiss company to operate customs checkpoints to be set up on the administrative boundaries of the two territories controversially recognized by Russia as independent states. The Moscow daily “Kommersant” reported this week that they finalized such a deal at the latest round of negotiations held in Prague. The Georgian government has not officially confirmed this yet.
Commenting on the report, Martirosian said: “That depends, first and foremost, on Russian-Georgian relations. We hope that a solution will be found in the near future.”
The minister told reporters that the new Russian-Georgian corridors would benefit Armenia by reducing transportation costs in its trade with Russia, its number one trading partner, and other states.
Most of Russian-Armenian trade is currently carried out through the sole Russian-Georgian border crossing at Upper Lars. Traffic along that mountainous road is frequently blocked by blizzards in winter months. Hence, Yerevan’s strong interest in the launch of new trade routes to Russia.
Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetian discussed the matter with his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Kvirikashvili when he visited Tbilisi in February. Karapetian said after their talks that “there will be an alternative to the Lars road” but did not give details.