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Moscow-Tbilisi: Olympics against new policy2013-02-21 19:43
South Caucasus is now in a quite unique situation. Georgia's new authorities have taken steps to improve relations with Russia. There are numerous reports about possible re-opening of the railway through Abkhazia, which greatly upsets Baku since this initiative can benefit Armenia. The Prime Minister of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili has expressed dissatisfaction with the construction of the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi-Baku railway. Experts assert that the outcome of these processes can change the region. GTimes correspondent spoke with the head of the Center for Regional Studies Richard Kirakosyan about these issues.
- The Georgian authorities have recently expressed concern about the construction of the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi-Baku. Many say this is due to increased Turkish factor in Georgia. How do you explain the concern of the new Georgian authorities on this subject?
- Positive thing is that the Georgian government is offering to resume railway through Abkhazia. That is why Georgia does not want to be fully engaged in the Turkish-Azerbaijani project to isolate Armenia. Fortunately, Georgia's calculations have changed in favor of regional programs from north to south (Abkhaz railway and relations with Russia - Ed). These programs, if implemented, may have a positive impact on Armenia.
- How realistic is the opening of the Abkhaz railway? How does this project affect the region?
- If we regard the future stability of the region, this is the only way. But in the short term, Georgia is disappointed from Russia's reaction to its proposal to resume rail service. Still, I believe that prior to the Olympics in Sochi in 2014, Russia is unlikely to change the course. Russia is trying to open the airport in Abkhazia, and till the Olympics cannot change the balance of power in the relations with Georgia. I believe that Russia is willing to keep Georgia under the pressure. Weakness of the Georgian side in negotiations with Russia is lack of any meaningful proposals for Moscow.
- It is believed that as long as Georgia has a clear pro-Western line, Yerevan managed to pursue a policy of balance between Russia and the West. May the adjustment of Tbilisi's foreign policy in Russia's favor influence the foreign policy of Armenia in strengthening Russian vector?
- No, I do not think so. However, Armenia is in a unique situation and can help Georgia in restoration of relations with Russia. Yerevan can help the Kremlin in a wider region, since it is the only Russia's reliable ally here. Another important point that was seen before the parliamentary election in Georgia: Tbilisi's desire to "leave" the region and to join the EU and NATO was unrealistic. Even prior to the election, Georgia understood the need to find its role in the region, rather than "leave" it. In this regard, Armenia offers Georgia some opportunities. In other words, a nod by Georgia to Russia won't lead to a deepening and strengthening of Armenian-Russian relations. A different thing may happen: Russia will respect and trust of Armenia much more. I am not against the deepening of relations between Armenia and Russia, but I am against the lack of respect and balance in relationships.
- Both on the part of the West and from Russian side, we can hear that the policy of maneuver is effective for a certain time period, and its end can already come. Do you think Armenia may face an unambiguous choice between the EU course and the Customs Union?