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Tbilisi - Kukava - Sukhum29.12.2011 | 21:00
A while ago, Alexander Ankvab stated his readiness to open railway transit between Abkhazia and Armenia. The idea was supported in Georgia, though not by the government. Head of Free Georgia party Kakha Kukava came out with the initiative of acting as mediator between Sukhum and Tbilisi. This politician has gained the reputation of a talented diplomat. It is due to his efforts that negotiations on returning Georgian goods to the Russian market after a many-year embargo are practically over. GTimes correspondent talked to Kakha Kukava about the prospect of opening Sukhum-Yerevan transit.
over. GTimes correspondent talked to Kakha Kukava about the prospect of opening Sukhum-Yerevan transit.
It was Free Democrats that became the first political force to react to the statement of the Abkhaz leader Alexander Ankvab. "We believe it will positively affect the issue of settling the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. We are calling on the Georgian authorities to immediately respond to Alexander Ankvab's statement and start taking effective steps to execute this initiative", - the party stated. Besides, Free Georgia underlined that the movement expresses its full readiness to personally start negotiations with Ankvab on opening the transit the same way it settled the issue of removing the Russian embargo.
Indeed, leader of Free Georgia Kakha Kukava much contributed to the negotiations between Russian Agency for Health and Consumer Rights and Georgian winemakers. He has visited Moscow five times of late, acting as a go-between in the issue of bringing Georgian products back to the Russian market and was successful at getting Gennadiy Onishchenko's consent, which means the renowned wine and mineral water will soon again please the Russians.
Will his diplomatic skill help Kukava in another complicated matter, such as Tbilisi and Sukhum's rapprochement in the railway issue? GTimes correspondent got in touch with the politician and asked him to personally assess the chances of successful negotiations.
- What does your mediatory function imply?
- The point is there are many initiatives supported by the Georgian society but rejected by our government. It was like this with our initiative of resuming export of goods to the Russian market. Georgian authorities took it negatively then; however, our negotiations put things on the right track and we are planning to start deliveries to RF in February. The same is about the railway. Perhaps, it does not fall within Mikhail Saakashvili's interests, for he is interested only in things that give him money, but it definitely falls within Georgia's interests. And here we may act as mediators or partners by summoning the public opinion in favour of the idea.
Unfortunately, the Abkhaz president who is not recognized as a legitimate governor here represents both Abkhaz and Georgian interests much better than the Georgian president does. Opening a railway is really beneficial to the people on both banks of the Inguri River. If you ask common people in Georgia, everyone will answer that we need a dialogue with the Abkhaz, whether the government or the people who are called separatists here. Even in terms of economy, the project looks beneficial for Georgia. But even if we suppose it won't bring any income we must carry it out for political reasons and support the initiative. We understand that political and legal decisions are taken by the government but we express readiness to support the idea of cooperation with the Abkhaz and gradually build a dialogue.
- What if you succeed in developing an understanding with Abkhazia but the Georgian authorities impede further progress?
- It is difficult to discuss things in advance but we are basically ready for that. No one had thought we would conduct efficient negotiations on the export of the Georgian products to Russia without the Georgian government's involvement. But we have found a mechanism enabling such possibility: some of the Georgian companies have already applied to Russian Agency for Health and Consumer Rights. The process is on despite the authorities' opinion. We think negotiations with Abkhazia might be built according to the same scenario.
- Are you ready to be called a Russian or Abkhaz spy, considering the official Tbilisi's attitude to any negotiations conducted by certain politicians with Moscow, Sukhum or Tskhinval?
- This is the same old story, you know. I have not been declared a Kremlin or FSS agent in these last months because it has become too "popular" in Georgia. Accusing people involved in settling the Russia-Georgia relationship has become a trend. Even the pro-American oppositional parties that called us "pro-Russian" a year ago now propose their own renewed programs. So I don't think we will be taken in a hostile way, though if we are it will only do us good.