Russia Proposes South Caucasus Joint Venture to Restore Railway

Civil Georgia, Georgia
Nov. 4, 2004

Russia Proposes South Caucasus Joint Venture to Restore Railway

Russia proposed the setting up of a joint railway venture with the
South Caucasus states in order to unite efforts in restoring a railway
connection in the region.

`The development of transport links will speed up the settlement of
political problems. The Presidents of the South Caucasus countries
think that the restoration of the railway will encourage the resumption
of talks [over conflict resolution], which were suspended long ago,’
the press office of the Russian Transport Ministry quotes Transport
Minister Igor Levitin as saying.

Levitin visited Tbilisi on November 1 and held talks over the rail link
via Abkhazia with the Georgian leadership.

At a news briefing in Moscow on November 3, the Russian Transport
Minister said that he has offered a proposal to set up a joint
Russian-Georgian-Armenian-Azerbaijani company, which will restore
traffic on the Trans-Caucasus Railway that ceased functioning after the
conflicts in Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 90s.

Meanwhile, the chief of the state-run Russian Railway Company Genadi
Fadeev, who visited Armenian on November 3, signed an agreement with
his Armenian counterpart over the setting up of a joint venture in an
attempt to unite efforts to restore the railway communication in the
region, RFE/RL reported.

“The countries’ presidents, transportation authorities and business
representatives have expressed support for this project, which will
revitalize transport links between our countries,” the Russian
English-language daily Moscow Times quoted Igor Levitin as saying at a
news briefing on November 3.

The railway, which stretched more than 2,300 kilometers during Soviet
times, connected Black Sea ports with central Russia, operated
passenger services and handled more than 15 million tons of transit
cargo per year, according to the Moscow Times.

Levitin also said that he has reached an agreement with the Georgian
authorities over setting up a joint group which will work over the
issue of restoring the railway via Abkhazia.