The Russian Foreign Ministry “welcomed the constructive and responsible position” of new South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov that Tskhinvali will have “no problems” with allowing international cargo transit through the region.
“We noticed the recent statement of the President of the Republic of South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov, made on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, on Tskhinvali’s readiness to participate equally in the work on establishing the cargo transit through the territory of the republic,” the Ministry stated in its brief comment on June 6.
“We welcome this constructive and responsible position, which opens up a real opportunity for the development of commercial-economic connections in the South Caucasus in the interests of all countries in the region,” the statement said.
“We call on Tbilisi to show an equally constructive spirit,” the Ministry noted, referring to the Swiss-mediated agreement between Tbilisi and Moscow on monitoring of trade between the two countries, including the cargo passing through Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“Immediate launch of the implementation would be an important contribution to the development of international trade in the region,” the Ministry said.
It then added that Tbilisi “has for a long time been avoiding the confirmation of its commitments under the agreement,” and expressed hope that the country “would change its approach.”
Speaking to the RIA Novosti, Russia’s state-run news agency on June 2, Anatoly Bibilov said the road running through Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia “is the most convenient” transit route for Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.
“In order to open the road, a political decision is needed, first of all, from Georgia. I think, there will be no problems from our side. The only problem that the Georgian side might have concerns the status of South Ossetia. Of course, we will not allow and it will not happen, that South Ossetia does not participate as an equal partner … South Ossetia should be an equal partner, should participate exactly the same way as other states,” Bibilov stated.
“If Georgia insists on rejecting South Ossetia’s equal partnership, it will be necessary to hold consultations and negotiations in order to explain that it will not work: we are a republic and we will be an equal partner,” Bibilov noted.
Georgia agreed to give its go-ahead to Russia’s WTO membership only after Tbilisi and Moscow signed a Swiss-mediated agreement in November, 2011, envisaging the deployment of sophisticated systems for tracking and auditing of cargo passing through Abkhazia and South Ossetia. According to the agreement, “neutral private company” will carry out monitoring of cargo movement through three “trade corridors” two of which run through Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the third one on the Zemo Larsi-Kazbegi border crossing point on the undisputed section of Georgia-Russia border.
Monitoring should be carried out, among other means, also through the presence of company representatives at entry/exit points of these corridors, meaning that they will be present outside of the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.