Saakashvili links Moscow-Yerevan rail to return of Abkhaz refugees

Georgian leader links opening of Moscow-Yerevan railway to return of Abkhaz

Imedi TV, Tbilisi
12 Mar 04

[Presenter] The restoration of the Abkhaz section of the railway
connecting Russia with Armenia is the main issue for the official
Yerevan. Not a single train has arrived in Yerevan from Moscow since
the Abkhaz war.

Today Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said that the railway
link would be restored if refugees [from Abkhazia] returned to their
homes and political issues were resolved. Saakashvili intends to use
Armenia’s good relations with Russia in settling Georgian-Russian
relations. The president has already met his Armenian colleague
[President Robert Kocharyan]. Now he is at Echmiadzin where he is
meeting Catholicos of All Armenians Garegin II.

[Saakashvili, video starts in mid-sentence] – especially in
[Abkhazia’s] Gali District, connected with the creation of security
guarantees for people who return [to their home], as well as with
general economic restoration in the whole region. Naturally, all of
this will facilitate economic development, including the restoration
of the transport infrastructure.

We are working within a trilateral commission, with Russia and
Abkhazia’s de-facto authorities. We think that Russia could play a
constructive role in this issue. There is the Geneva process, as well
as the group of the UN secretary-general’s friends in Georgia. They
are addressing [inaudible] issues there.

I think that now the Georgian side is ready to pursue a peaceful
course in a much stronger manner. After the [presidential] election in
Russia – we have already found a common language with Russia – I think
that Russia will spend more time on this issue. As regards the Abkhaz
authorities, there too a change of leadership is planned this year. I
think that with the change of leadership, problems will start to be
resolved within a much shorter time.

In principle, we realize the importance of this railway for
Armenia. It is important for Georgia as well. Of course, it is linked
to the general security climate and the peaceful resolution of the
problem. All of this cannot be resolved by a one-sided approach. This
issue has several aspects. Of course, we are ready – I repeat once
again – to make bold decision in the interests of the entire region.

[Kocharyan] I will simply add the following. You know that this
situation has been continuing for a long time. In such situations,
normally, people get used to the status quo. Changing the situation
requires, of course, political efforts and will on the part of all
participating sides.

Submitted by Janoyan Ana