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Distressed over checkpoint2010-03-04 23:25
Azerbaijan condemns Georgia's border opening for transit of Armenian goods to Russia and back. Baku threatens measures if the corridor from Upper Lars is used for military purposes. Tbilisi is between two fires.
Generally speaking the checkpoint on Russian-Georgian border was opened specifically for Armenian goods. Using the transit corridor via Georgia for redeployment of arms and troops was out of question. Formally there is armistice - not stable peace - in Russian-Georgian relations now.
Still, Azerbaijan whose experts have long been instructing Georgia not to open the border with Russia or do it in exchange for considerable concessions is preoccupied.
Tbilisi has already calmed Baku down stating there is no way for Armenians to take military cargos through the Georgian borders. "I understand concern of my Azerbaijani colleague but I officially state no bullet will pass through Lars", - Vashadze said in reply to yesterday's comment by Azerbaijani FM Elmar Mamedyarov.
The latter recently reminded of Azerbaijan's old concern over supplies of arms across the territory of Georgia to the Russian military base stationed in Armenia promising to keep a close watch on the situation in the transit corridor. Upper Lars checkpoint has been operating for two days. If we get information on shipments of Russian arms to Armenia we will react by holding talks with the Georgian side", - Mamedyarov warned.
What does Baku threaten with? As diplomatic sources told REGNUM IA Azerbaijan may reconsider energy contracts with Georgia (increasing gas prices, for instance), stop providing support in Abkhazia and South Ossetia issue and adopt a rigid stand on protection of rights of Azerbaijanis in this country. Besides Azerbaijan can cut investments for Georgia.
This all may lead to even more serious consequences than a scandal with Yerevan. Last year President Mikheil Saakashvili conveyed a rather clear message that Armenia is seen as a friend and Azerbaijan as a strategic partner.
Moreover, Tbilisi has enough opponents to the Upper Lars opening, so it won't take Georgia much time to close the artery of Russian-Armenian transit without hesitation.
Both in Georgian government and in opposition there is a fear of the "fifth column" that Ossetians of Kazbegi district can become. Mamuka Areshidze and other politologists have frightened the society enough with the prospect of a new annexation. Tbilisi is afraid that Russia will give passports to Kazbegi district residents that constantly travel across the border, and the Russian army will come to protect them like in Tskhinval.