Lavrov Comments on Georgia-Russia Railway via Abkhazia

Moscow is ready for talks on restoration of Russian-Georgian railway link via Abkhazia, but it’s primarily up to Tbilisi and Sokhumi to agree on terms, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on March 11.

Speaking at a joint news conference with breakaway Abkhazia’s foreign minister Viacheslav Chirikba in Moscow, Lavrov also said that Armenia is also interested in restoration of this railway link.

Asked about his position on this issue, Lavrov said: “Given the fact that according to interstate agreements RZhD [Russian Railway] participates in operation of Abkhaz section of the railway, the Russian side is in principle ready for such consultations, but main decisions should be made by immediate participants of the process – first of all, Georgia and Abkhazia.”

“Armenia is very interested in it for obvious reasons. We will be ready to support restoration of this traffic, but first and foremost Sukhum and Tbilisi should agree on terms,” the Russian Foreign Minister said.

The issue of railway was raised during the recent meeting of Georgian PM’s special envoy for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin in Prague on February 26. Karasin said at the time that no detailed discussion took place as it would be impossible to address this issue comprehensively without participation of the Abkhaz side.
Abashidze said that “there was nothing new about the railway” and the sides have reiterated their positions over the issue.

“We know their [Russians] position that if the Georgian side is interested in restoration of this section of the railway, we should reach out the Abkhaz side and negotiate with them. They have expressed such position previously too. Our response has always been that this a railway linking Georgia and Russia and we are not going to talk about it with Abkhazians,” Abashidze said on February 26.

After talks in Moscow on March 11 Lavrov and breakaway Abkhazia’s foreign minister Viacheslav Chirikba signed a “memorandum on mechanisms for carrying out coordinated foreign policy”, which is envisaged by treaty on “alliance and strategic partnership” signed by Sokhumi and Moscow in November, 2014.

Lavrov said that as envisaged by this treaty, Moscow will help Abkhazia “in strengthening its international positions.”

Chirikba said that the memorandum envisages “concrete steps” for Russian assistance in achieving international recognition for Abkhazia, which apart of Russia is now recognized only by Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru.

Lavrov said that upcoming thirty first round of the Geneva international discussions, scheduled for March 17-18, was also discussed. He hailed this format, launched after the August 2008 war, as “useful” and reiterated that Moscow, as well as Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, will keep on insisting on Georgia to sign “legally binding” non-use of force agreements with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia, which has unilaterally made non-use of force commitment, wants Russia to reciprocate, but Moscow refuses, claiming that it is not a party in the conflict.


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