A high-ranking Russian diplomat has sounded optimistic about the opening in the near future of new transport corridors between Georgia and Russia that would facilitate cargo shipments to and from Armenia.
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.
The two other roads connecting Georgia and Russia pass through the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They were closed even before the 2008 Russian-Georgian war and Moscow’s ensuing recognition of both regions as independent states.
In 2011, Moscow and Tbilisi agreed to hire a Swiss company to operate special customs checkpoints to be set up on the administrative boundaries of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Despite their lingering political disagreements, the two sides seem to have slowly but steadily made progress towards the implementation of that agreement. The Georgian government signed a relevant contract with the Swiss company, SGS, on December 19.
In an interview with the Moscow daily “Kommersant” published on Thursday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said Moscow will likely follow suit “in the coming months.” “After that the agreement will work,” Karasin said. It will give “powerful impetus” to regional trade, he said.
Karasin, who is Russia’s top negotiator in regular contacts with Georgian officials, confirmed that Armenia is keenly interested in such an arrangement and has asked the Russians to work it out with Georgia. “But in this case, we are talking about a purely bilateral agreement between Russia and Georgia concluded with Swiss mediation,” added the diplomat.
Armenian leaders have repeatedly expressed hope that the 2011 Russian-Georgian deal will be implemented. President Serzh Sarkisian most probably discussed the matter with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili when he visited Tbilisi late last month.
Kvirikashvili said earlier in December that his government is ready to allow Armenia as well as Turkey and other countries to use, in case of a “force majeure situation,” the road passing through South Ossetia.