Discussions held between Presidents of Armenia and Georgia
At a recent meeting the presidents of Armenia and Georgia were unable to avoid the subject of transport through South Ossetia and Abkhazia into Russia.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan arrived in Georgia on 25 January for an official state visit. Armenian experts believe that this was one of the main questions among others, despite a lack of public statements to this effect.
Over the past few days, the Armenian media has been writing about an agreement concluded by Georgia with the Swiss monitoring company SGS and the possibility of transporting products into Russia via South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The agreement states that transport will only be possible if there will be a force-majeure situation on the Russian-Georgian border along the Kazbegi-Verxni Lars highway.
Armenian media cited the Georgian Prime Minister Kvirikashili as saying the following:
“Turkey, Armenia and other countries which use the transit potential of our country can use this corridor in force-majeur situations. But, and I repeat, this is a unilateral agreement. We are continuing negotiations because several conditions put forward by Russia are unacceptable.”
In order for the agreement to come into effect, Russia must sign it with the Swiss monitoring company SGS. Armenian experts say that if the parties can come to an agreement, it would be possible for the Abkhaz side of the Armenian-Russian railway to be restored.
About 80 % of Armenia’s external trade takes place on the territory of Georgia. The only land route from Armenia to Russia is the road through Verxni Lars which is periodically closed due to weather. Trucks with Armenian products sometimes have to stand for days at this point and produce often get spoilt as a result.
“There may soon be a solution to the issue of finding alternatives to the Lars route. Armenia may receive much benefit if the roads into South Ossetia and Abkhazia open up, because, as is well known, there are enormous queues in Lars and business-owners complain that their trucks have to stand for days at this point and that products, in a best case scenario, end up in Russia with a serious delay. The authorities of Georgia have announced that Armenia may use this road. For what volumes of trade and in what format is still to be discussed and agreed upon. If such a statement is made, even verbally, it will mean that the sides have given their agreement,” said Georgia expert Alik Eroyants.
Economists say that the other road into Russia is 80 kilometres longer, albeit safer because it is in a better climate zone. They also say that in the winter of 2016 when Lars was closed for ten days, it became obvious to Armenia that it was in fact a liability. Because of this products became more expensive and small and medium businesses suffered as a result.
In political circles of Armenia experts don’t think it’s accidental that, immediately after the meeting in Georgia, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is going to Russia for an unofficial conference by the Heads of State of the Commonwealth of Independent States.