Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan denied reports that Yerevan and Tbilisi talked on possible reopening of the railway link between Russia and Georgia via Abkhazia during the Prime Minister’s visit to Tbilisi on February 23-24.
The Armenian Government’s press office reported in its February 24 press release of the visit that “speaking on the alternative to the Zemo Larsi route,” the only border crossing point between Russia and Georgia which is under Tbilisi’s control and which is also the only available land link for Armenia with Russia, the Prime Minister stated the following: “we have discussed the issue, rest assured, that there will be [an alternative].”
The statement triggered speculation in Georgia that Tbilisi might be secretly negotiating on the issue with the Russian and the Armenian Governments.
Appearing before the Armenian Parliament on March 1, Karapetyan denied such negotiations and stated that “the issue of the Abkhazia railway was not discussed [at the meeting with the Georgian Government].”
“We discussed other alternatives. Do I consider the solution possible – yes, we are currently in the negotiation process,” he added without elaborating further details.
Speaking with VERELQ, Yerevan-based news portal, Armenia’s Transport Minister Vahan Martirosyan clarified that “the alternative to Zemo Larsi is not only the Abkhazia and South Ossetia routes, but also the ferry connection from the Georgian Port of Poti.”
Martirosyan added that, upon agreement with the Georgian Government, the transit procedures for Armenian cargo will be simplified and Georgian transport companies will apply preferential prices for Armenian businesses.
PM Karen Karapetyan also touched upon Georgia’s agreement with Gazprom on gas transit to Armenia, according to which, Georgia will partially maintain the commodity payment scheme in 2017 and move to full monetary reimbursement in 2018.
“For the first billion cubic meters [of gas transported to Armenia] they will receive 10% gas [in commodity payment] and the remaining amount they will receive in dollars … which will be less than 10%,” PM Karapetyan told the MPs.