The Armenian government praised Georgia and Russia on Friday for moving closer to opening new Russian-Georgian transport corridors that would facilitate cargo shipments to and from Armenia.
Russian and Georgian negotiators reported further progress towards the implementation of a 2011 agreement to that effect after a fresh round of talks held in Prague on Thursday.
The agreement calls for reopening two roads connecting Georgia to Russia via the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The two sides have contracted a Swiss company, SGS, to set up special customs checkpoints on the administrative boundaries of the two territories.
The chief Russian negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, said they agreed to set up a joint task force that will try to work out practical modalities of operating the new trade routes. Those include issues such as “where and how the customs checkpoints will be functioning,” Karasin told RFE/RL in Prague.
“This is serious work which will probably take several months,” he said.
“We are now entering the phase of the agreement’s implementation,” Karasin’s Georgian opposite number, Zurab Abashidze, said for his part. He said the Georgian government supports the launch of the new corridors.
Landlocked Armenia’s trade with Russia, its leading commercial partner, is mainly carried out through the sole Russian-Georgian border crossing at Upper Lars. Traffic along that mountainous road is periodically blocked by bad weather, especially in winter months. Hence, Yerevan’s strong interest in having alternative trade routes.
Armenia’s Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian welcomed the “positive movement” in the long-running Russian-Georgian talks. “We highly appreciate the parties’ readiness and efforts to implement that agreement extremely important to us,” he wrote on Facebook.
Avinian also said that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian discussed the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin at their May 14 meeting in Sochi.
Incidentally, Pashinian is scheduled to visit Tbilisi and meet with Georgia’s leaders next week.