Saturday, February 03, 2007

Political storm clouds still surround new rail link

Thursday, February 1, 2007, #020 (1287)
The messenger

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Diana Dundua)

Although the financing, engineering and logistical issues surrounding the construction of the Kars-Akhalkalaki railway have been largely solved, the political concerns surrounding the project remain. Armenian President Robert Kocharian's Press Secretary Victor Sogomonian recently reiterated Yerevan's opposition to the project, saying Armenia would use "political methods" to hamper the project's implementation.

"The fact that the US refused to sponsor the building of the railway was the result of appropriate steps taken by Yerevan," explained Sogomonian, as quoted by the newspaper Rezonansi.

Russia, a staunch Armenian ally, is also against the railway's construction. This would be unlikely to deter Georgia, were it not for the fact that their main patron and strategic partner, the United States, has also voiced its opposition to the project. The US recently passed a bill forbidding American financing of the railway's construction, out of fear that the railway will further isolate Armenia, whose borders with both Azerbaijan and Turkey have been closed since the early 90s.

According to the chair of the parliamentary Committee on European Integration, David Bakradze, Georgia will not ignore its own interests because of American opposition. However, Bakradze also mentions that the US is not "totally" against the railway.

Some Georgian analysts agree with Bakradze on this.

"As a rule, if the US is against something, it does its best to make sure it doesn't happen. In this case the situation is different," explains analyst Mamuka Areshidze in the newspaper Kvela Siakhle.

The analyst says the US's position regarding the railway is ill-defined. US diplomat Matt Bryza has said that despite being against any regional project that bypasses Armenia, America will not disturb its implementation.

Deputy US Ambassador to Armenia Anthony Godfrey made a similar statement several days ago, reports the newspaper Rezonansi.

The US and Armenia both fear the railway will add to Armenia's isolation, but this itself is questionable. Georgia is trying to show the potential benefits the railway could bring Armenia, which already conducts a large amount of trade with Turkey via Georgia.

"Georgia cannot change the relationship that exists between Armenia and Azerbaijan and Armenia and Turkey. But Armenia will still profit from this project because the railway will allow Armenia improved access to European products," explains Bakradze in the newspaper Kvela Siakhle.
This is a lame excuse. Because Armenia will be getting the crumbs, does not mean Armenia deserves the crumbs. The politics is well laid out by Turkey and Azerbaijan. Georgia is enabling the further relative isolation of Armenia in the region, while it is in its power to stop it. Please respect the intelligence of your neighbour country, Armenia.
Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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