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Abkhazia Seeks Involvement in Russo-Armenian Railway Project

Abkhaz deputies wrote to the Russian State Duma offering to connect Russia and Armenia by railway through Abkhazia, local media reported on February 9.

Sokhumi seeks to build on an agreement reached by Russian President Vladimir Putin, with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan in early January to restore rail and road transport links between the three countries. The talks centered on opening the connection through eastern Azerbaijan, allowing Armenia to launch direct trains to Russia for the first time since the early 1990s.

But Armenia’s shortest railway link to its strategic partner, Russia, runs through Georgia. The 200-km Abkhaz section has been defunct since 1993 when the conflict in Abkhazia severed the railway connection.

The media said Abkhaz legislature’s international affairs committee held a hearing over the issue on February 4 and cited the head of that committee Astamur Logua, saying that “Abkhazia must be unblocked.”

Logua expressed his hopes that “we will achieve Abkhazia participating in the project on equal terms,” adding that the 21st century is the “time for ending the policy of isolation, acknowledging modern realities and building normal relations.”

Both Sokhumi and Tbilisi opposed the restoration of the Russo-Georgian railway link via Abkhazia for decades. Talks on the resumption of this vital connection, which once accounted for 80% of trade between Georgia and Russia, have repeatedly surfaced, but inevitably failed.

Tbilisi and Moscow also failed to advance on the Swiss-mediated 2011 WTO deal, which would place sophisticated systems for tracking and auditing of the road-bound cargo passing through Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia into Georgia proper and onward.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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