On December 25-26, the President of Armenia Serge Sargsian made a visit to Georgia, which, according to mass media, turned out to be quite meaningless. Among the negotiating topics, the most important was the provision of a stable transit of Armenian cargo and passengers in the direction of Russia. The day before, the Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced the signed agreement with the Swiss company SGS which will ensure the monitoring of goods both transit and supplied by Armenia or Russia, saying that “… in force majeure this corridor through Tskhinvali (according to Roksky Tunnel) may be used by Turkey, Armenia and other countries”.
Armenian and certain Russian media outlets rushed to present this statement as a breakthrough of the transport blockade by Armenia and Azerbaijani-Georgian strategic partnership crisis. This interpretation is clearly provocative and premature. But now it is decisive to determine the force majeure situation. If it is a natural disaster or a man-made disaster, then there is nothing to object. But if it is the closure of the Larsky transition as a result of snowfalls and landslides, due to which trucks with Armenian fruits and vegetables or buses with passengers are left idle, then it means an expanded interpretation of the issue, that Armenians need.
Although President Sargsian raised the issue of opening a railway through Abkhazia during his visit to Georgia, this conversation still remains irrelevant. Firstly, the volumes of possible transportation are so small, that they do not justify, not only necessary investments to restore the roads that have not been used for a quarter of a century, but also the expenses of their further exploitation. Transportation of uranium fuel elements and equipment for Mitsamor nuclear power plant or Russian military cargoes via this route is inconceivable and completely unacceptable for Georgia itself, as well as for Azerbaijan. Because the Armenian nuclear power plant poses a massive threat to the entire South Caucasus so all neighboring countries, including EU, insist on its rapid closure. As for military transport, the Russian military base in Armenia doesn’t have the capacity to deter Turkey (for what it was supposedly intended), and in the case of a repeat of the August 2008 events, it may well hit the rear of Georgia itself, through the Armenian-populated Javakhetia.
In general, the very fact of Georgia’s provision of transit to connect Armenia with Russia through the territory of its seceded autonomies looks abnormal. Russia, contrary to international law, recognized the separatist regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, illegally deploying its military contingents there. And Armenians regularly vote against the territorial integrity of Georgia, in solidarity with Russia, in the UN, the Council of Europe and other international organizations. Therefore, I would venture that the project of transit of Armenian cargo through Abkhazia and South Ossetia won’t go beyond rhetoric. Let me remind you how much talk was made about the transit of Iranian gas through Armenia to Georgia, but even SWAP (it is not a real transit, just a replacement operation) of a couple of hundred million cubic meters of gas was not carried out.
It is clear that the leadership of Georgia, consistently leading it to NATO and EU, has to maneuver in front of the sustained pressure from Moscow. Obviously, Tbilisi does not want to embitter and turn Yerevan into an outspoken enemy. In turn, Russia and Armenia are playing communicational intrigues in the hope of knocking Georgia off the Western vector and destroying the hated strategic axis “Baku-Tbilisi-Ankara”. The expectation is not to transit the real and significant volume of Armenian cargoes through Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but to provoke a nervous reaction of Baku and to plant a seed of mistrust between Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Therefore, one does not need to get to these tricks, monitor the situation and not rush into public demarches. We have invested too much in strategic projects in Georgia. Our countries have become a bridge, linking Caspian and Black Seas, and, in a broader context, Asia and Europe, thanks to “Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan”, “Baku-Supsa”, “Southern Gas Corridor” pipelines and “Baku-Tbilisi-Kars” railway. I believe that neither Baku, nor Tbilisi will jeopardize the strategic partnership, which gives both countries significant geopolitical weight and will be able to resolve the emerging issues through a confidential dialogue.
Author: Rasim Musabekov