Gyumri – Akhalkalaki – Batumi Highay: Benefits And Further Prospects

Vardan Grigoryan

Hayots Ashkhar Daily
02 Oct 2008

During President Serge Sargsyan’s visit to Georgia, an agreement was
reached for the reconstruction and modernization of the mountainous
highway extending from Javahk to Ajaria over the territory of
Akhaltskhe. Let’s note that this highway which has a strategic
importance for Armenia.

As we know, Batumi lies at a distance of just 330 kilometers from the
Armenian border, but the Ajarian section of the highway extending
along the Georgian-Turkish border and reaching Batumi via the
territory of Samtskhe-Javakhetti becomes impassable during the winter
months. Starting its way from Akhaltskhe, a road junction which plays
a crucial role in the region, it passes across the region of Adigen,
then continues its way to the settlements of Khoulo and Shouakhev,
(mountainous Ajaria) and finally reaches Batumi.

However, despite the difficulties related to the locality, this
significantly reduces the distance between Armenia and that Georgian
sea gate which has, up to date, communicated with Armenia via the
Sadakhlo – Tbilisi – Batumi railroad.

As shown by the Russian-Georgia armed conflict, neither the highway
extending to Western Georgia and Ajaria via the territories of
Gori and Khashuri nor the parallel railway are reliable enough
for being considered roads of int erstate importance. The border
of South Ossetia lies at a very short distance from here. Besides,
the groups of international observers are going to be deployed along
the Georgian-Ossetian border, more specifically, in the section of
the highway lying at a short distance from Gori.

It’s clear that in such conditions not only Georgia but also our
country may become faced with a lot of "unpleasant surprises"
in future.

Such surprises may become perilous, especially during the winter
months, because in case of the closure of the highway or railway, it
will no longer be possible to use any well-constructed road opening
its way to the Black Sea.

The thing is that it very often becomes necessary to use either of
the routes leading to Khoulo-Shoulakhev or Khashouri in order to
continue the way to Potti or Batumi from the well-constructed highway
extending to Akhaktskhe. Using the former route will become dangerous
in case of new complications in the political-military situation in
the region. And the latter route, as we already mentioned, becomes
almost impassable in winter.

Hence, the modern and well-constructed road extending from Javahk
to Ajaria may essentially neutralize the impending risks to Armenia
and become the second overland corridor for our country. That’s why,
relevant programs aimed at constructing a railroad in this direction
were elaborated even in the Soviet times, but the Georgian Gove
rnment was against their implementation. A similar program aimed at
modernizing the highway was also meeting with the resistance of the
independent Georgian government for several years.

After Georgia’s gaining independence, the authorities in Javahk
were very weak. As to Aslan Abashidze’s government formed in Ajaria,
it didn’t actually comply with Tbilisi’s demands. That’s why Z.

Gamsakhourdia, the first President of Georgia, would respond to the
proposals of the Armenian side by saying, "Georgia is not a passable
yard," a statement which had already become a kind of winged expression
in that period.

However, the situation began to change after the de facto establishment
of the Georgian rule in Ajaria, and especially, after the recent
Russian-Georgian armed conflict. The issue of having a modern and
permanently operating Gyumri -Akhalkalaki – Batumi highway, a project
proposed by Armenian side in the past, acquired a vital importance
for Georgia.

This is obviously conditioned by the new geopolitical realities in
the region, i.e. the fact that the highway linking Tbilisi with the
Georgian ports of the Black Sea extends along the Georgian-Ossetian

In such conditions it becomes quite clear why Georgia spends 170
million US Dollars on the construction of the highways linking Tbilisi
with Javahk and simultaneously offers the Armenian side to set up
a joint consortium and acq uire relevant means within a period of 2
months for the modernization of the highway linking Ajaria with the
region of Samtskhe-Javakhetti.

Thus, the present-day geopolitical developments urge Georgia to have
an alternative road opening its way to the Black Sea, something that
Armenia, its neighboring country, has badly needed for a long time. But
no matter how much this desire may be dictated by the new situation in
and around Georgia, it is necessary to bear in mind that the operation
of such road will create real opportunities for Armenia to carry out
freight transportations to Batumi in a very short period of time.

Moreover, before reaching Batumi, a port situated at a distance of
330 kilometers from the Armenian border, the road will pass over
Armenian-populated areas, as well as Akhaltskhe which serves as a
kind of borderline between Turkey and Russia. Besides, the existence
of such road may completely rid Armenia of the load of the tangled
road junction of Tbilisi as well as the negative impact of the new
war in the region.

The recent Russian-Georgian conflict which caused a great harm to
Armenia and brought about the loss of the Georgian control over some
territories has also created new transport-communication opportunities
for our country.

The second corridor passing via Georgia and reaching the Black Sea
can become one of the tools for counterbalancing the unilateral
penetration of the Turks int o the region of Samtskhe-Javakhetti and
improving the economic situation in region.

By this, Samtskhe-Javakhetti may become one of the regions in which
the interests of Armenia and Georgia intersect, as well as serve as
a junction linking the two countries with the outside world through
Batumi, a port situated on the coast of the Black Sea. Therefore,
instead of leading to the intersection of the Turkish-Georgian
interests, Ajaria will become an important place for the economic
cooperation of three countries at once.

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