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Verkhni Lars as a public manhole14.05.2009 | 19:48
Several days ago Russia has formally opened a state-of-the-art checkpoint at the border of Georgia and North Ossetia. Armenian politicians have started to talk about the possibility of setting transport connection with Russia through the Georgian territory. However, according to media, Tbilisi has denied the favor to the Armenian colleagues, while the experts are sure that the inhabitants of the border area desperately need such a "corridor".
Georgia refuses to open a transport corridor for Armenia from the Verkhni Lars checkpoint at the Russian border. Such information appeared in the Georgian and Russian media without reference to the official source.
The all-round motorcar checkpoint is located 38 km from Vladikavkaz on the military Georgian road. In July 2006, it was closed for repair work. The same year Russia expelled all the Georgians without a permit to stay in the country and banned the import of wine, mineral water and agricultural products from Georgia.
In 2008, before the August war, there could be seen an obvious thaw in the Russian-Georgian relationship. The February meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Saakashvili led to lifting the transport, mail and visa restrictions. Certain steps were taken towards lifting the Russian restrictions on import from Georgia. On July, 1, Deputy Chief Border Guard Officer of the Federal Security Service of Russia Vyacheslav Dorokhin reported to RIA Novosti that the Verkhni Lars checkpoint on the Russian-Georgian border was planned to be opened in December. The customs post officer Marat Kebekov pointed out then that the checkpoint was ready to operate according to a temporary schedule.
However, the Georgian government started a march on Tskhinval, thus having ruined the planned restoration of bilateral cooperation.
Now that the repair works at the checkpoint are over, it was formally opened on May, 5. As Rosbalt was told by the Southern Customs Press Office, its capacity amounts to 400 motorcars per day let by 12 main traffic lines and two reserved lines.
The source of the North-Ossetian customs officers' special pride is IN-50, the first incinerator to appear at the Russian border. This device enables an ecologically safe thermal destruction of the seized property, drugs and other hazardous materials. Verkhni Lars is also equipped with all the possible technical means of car searching and passenger screening.
During the opening ceremony, Chief Officer of the Federal Customs Service Andrew Belyaninov called Verkhni Lars to be the best at the Russian border. He noted also that "Russia has opened an opportunity to resume the traffic through the Georgian border, which is very important for the North Ossetians and the people of the adjoining Kazbek region of Georgia, as well as for the maintenance of healthy trade relations in the Transcaucasian region. The next step is up to Georgia".
The opening ceremony at the checkpoint to North Ossetia was also attended by Chief Officer of the Armenian Customs Service Gagik Gachaturyan, the North Caucasus newspaper reports. Yerevan seems to be the most interested party in the operation of the new checkpoint and the resumption of the overland transport connection with its ally, Russia. Minister of Transport and Communication of Armenia Gurgen Sarkisyan, commenting upon the opening of Verkhni Lars, expressed his hope that the relationship between Russia and Georgia will be mended and the checkpoint will start functioning. "Now we are waiting for a political decision to be taken. The problem lies in relations between Russia and Georgia. I hope that in the nearest time these relations will get to normal track, which would be beneficial to all the countries in the region", - IA Novosti-Georgia is reporting. In his turn, general secretary of Association of International Road Carriers of Armenia (AIRCA) Gerbert Ambartsumyan noted that the solution to this problem does not depend on Armenia. However, according to the North Caucasus newspaper, "Yerevan has already initiated negotiations with the ruling cabinet in Tbilisi on providing a transit corridor for goods transportation through Verkhni Lars".
One way or another, yesterday the Georgian media "rebuffed" all the hopes to resume the Russian-Armenian transit through the Georgian territory. "In view of the absence of any diplomatic relationship between Georgia and Russia, Armenia is the only one to use this corridor. Consequently, the checkpoint that has been recently opened by the Russian party after a three-year interval under the pretext of repair works will remain closed both for the citizens of Georgia and for their neighbours", - the pro-governmental portal informed without naming the author of this categoriсal judgment. By the way, the same day Van Baiburt, Advisor to President of Georgia, in his interview to the Akhali Taoba newspaper stated: "Armenia and Georgia mean much more to each other that it might seem. The countries in the South Caucasus must come to an understanding". But the fact is that Georgia keeps enjoying its role of the only transport corridor for Armenia, which is surrounded by hostile states. Recently the Agrarian and Peasant Association (APA) of Armenia started to import saltpeter from Iran, and the Georgian authorities banned the transit of fertilizers. Head of APA Grachya Berberyan has estimated it as lobbying the interests of the Georgian saltpeter manufacturers.