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Georgia despises country-in-a-case image30.11.2009 | 23:25
Kviris Palitra, an opposition newspaper in Georgia asserts that almost half of Georgian citizens condemn checkpoint opening on Russian-Georgian border. Only 16% respondents said yes, as the poll results show. Independent parliamentary deputy, Kartuli Darsi party leader Jondi Bagaturia (see photo) comments on Upper Lars-Kazbegi checkpoint issues for GeorgiaTimes.
Encouragers of economic benefits and suspicious advocates of the country's "security" have long been crossing swords over Upper Lars opening issue. Russia closed the checkpoint as early as in 2006 right when Moscow was deporting Georgian illegal emigrants and the Russian Federal Consumer Rights Protection and Human Health Control Service was placing Georgian produce under the ban.
This year Russia finished upgrading the checkpoint and proposed to open it. Apparently prospective unseal on Armenian-Turkish border accelerated the event. Moscow is in a hurry to reinforce trade ties on land with its strategic partner that might soon turn its gaze to the south.
However, Turkish-Armenian relations greatly depend on the solution of Nagorno Karabakh conflict between Yerevan and Baku, Ankara's brotherly land. So presently Armenia really needs Georgia for a corridor with Kazbegi (Georgia) - Upper Lars (Russia) checkpoint as a door to Russia.
For many Georgia's gain from opening the checkpoint is quite dubious though the government (that invested billions in Kazbegi modernization not without pressure from the US, people say) has adopted a positive decision.
According to Kviris Palitra poll results 45% respondents vote down opening Georgian-Russian border. There are 16% respondents that like the idea and 39% who had no answer.
Does that mean half of Georgia's population is against Upper Lars opening?
Kartuli Dasi (Georgian Group) party leader Jondi Bagaturia thinks the poll is biased:
Some newspapers and some people in Georgia are used to speaking on behalf of many, - he said in his conversation with GeorgiaTimes. - There is no public opposition on the issue. There is a very small group of people that ask strange questions related to security. The majority want the checkpoint to be opened.
Jondi Bagaturia shared his own version why Russia had decided to close the checkpoint earlier:
Russia was trying to foster Tskhinval district economically so that the truck transit was going through it. It was Russia's way to support Edward Kokoyty's government. But closing other checkpoints is no good for that!
The deputy remarked that the decision to open Upper Lars was taken at the National Security Council session attended by the president and representatives of the opposition. Strictly speaking, it was the opposition that pressed for negotiating risks.
In particular Nikoloz Laliashvili, a Christian Democratic movement deputy pointed to the unrest in North Caucasus noting that "tense processes are going on there and the checkpoint opening might bring armed groups to the territory of Georgia". Considering suspicions of Russian FSS on presence of militants in Pankissi gorge the issue remains really delicate.
But as Jondi Bagaturia states, all apprehensions scuttled at the same session.
We see no threats in the checkpoint opening. But Georgian customs officers will have to work really well to prevent penetration of any explosive substances across the border. If they work badly the criminals may do the same thing in Tbilisi airport or on Krasny Most (the checkpoint on the border with Azerbaijan - S.B.). The checkpoint opening didn't face any serious opposition. It was just a group of people that has to say and invent something, so they acted in their own interests.
GeorgiaTimes asked Bagaturia about the results of the trip deputies made to Kazbegi district whose local residents expressed their anxiety over the border unlocking.
There were 15-20 persons there asking questions, correct questions. We explained everything and agreed to keep in touch with them in case they have problems, - the deputy said.
Naturally the opening of one more checkpoint on the border means that someone might come or bring something illegal to the territory of Georgia and the risks are increasing but now that our relations with Russia are so tense we might as well be completely locked up just like Chekhov's man in a case and become some kind of "a country in a case"?! - Jondi Bagaturia says. - We must keep in touch with our neighbors - with Armenia that needs help and Russia - no matter what relations there are.
Kartuli Dasi leader mentioned three main arguments why Georgia must open Upper Lars checkpoint:
Firstly Georgia must preserve its image of a reliable transit state that performs this function well. Secondly we must take into account economic interests of our neighbors - friendly Armenia first of all. Thirdly this is good for Georgian regions that will have flows of trucks going through. It will give them an economic motivation to progress.
At the end of the interview Bagaturia emphasized that Georgia gives green light to the traffic between Kazbegi-Upper Lars. Now it's up to Russia to decide.