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Who needs a train from Moscow to Tbilisi?2012-11-19 16:51
Tbilisi's offer to open Trans-Caucasian railway line, which is idle for nearly 20 years due to the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, has raised many more questions than answers. Russia has not officially responded to Georgia's idea, Abkhazia is against it for political reasons, Armenia is interested in the opening, and Azerbaijan tries to force the idea, since this would significantly weaken the blockade of Yerevan. But there's one shag, experts say: Georgia has not taken any political steps in this direction.
Abkhazia has not officially responded to Georgia's invitation for one simple reason: this desire was declared only in the media. "Perhaps, a local expert community perceives this rather as an attempt of Georgia's new administration to outline the field of their interest, and at the same time to "check" the possible moods in Russia and Trans-Caucasian countries, interested in rail transit", Abkhazian politician, Ph.D. Nouri Gezerdava said in an interview to GTimes.
Expert considers reopening of the railway pretty doubtful project in light of the conflict, when Georgia and Abkhazia "are in a state of war", and they had no basic agreements fixing the end of hostilities and non-use of force in the future. "Abkhazia remembers those days. Today, Georgia raises the question, and who can guarantee, even if we imagine the railway transit operating? Georgia would take advantage to accuse the Abkhaz side of disrupting vital to the Caucasus transit through various political manipulation and subversion", he said.
On the other hand, Abkhazia, as a country recognized only by Russia and several other country after the August 2008 war, lives at the cost of the Russian budget. According to a Russian expert on the Caucasus Andrew Yepifantsev, Sukhum does not need revenues from operating railway including by rail to make a living, especially since Abkhazians has neither actual goods for Georgia and further to Armenia and Iran, nor the money or qualified personnel to maintain it. "Clearly, if the road runs, it is in full sense a Russian project, which unlikely would well affect Abkhazia's economy in its present form", Yepifantsev told GTimes.
From a political point of view, the expert says, the greater openness affects ethnocratic and closed political model of the Abkhaz state, and under certain conditions can even lead to a revision. "Abkhazia's state model is designed not to create an effective and democratic state, but to ensure the dominance of the Abkhazian ethnos and existence at Russia's expenses while being independent", he stressed.
Official Moscow's response to Georgia's initiative is still unknown. As noted by Andrew Yepifantsev, Georgian side's proposal is fully consistent with the Russian Foreign Ministry's general approach on the resumption of relations with Georgia. This approach lies in the fact that friendly and fraternal rhetoric toward Moscow is not enough anymore. "Tbilisi must make a number of certain steps to prove the sincerity of the new authorities' course and their departure from the course of Mikheil Saakashvili. Surely, resumption of Trans-Caucasian railroad is one of those steps", he said.