A Road Runs though It


The 135 km highway between Tbilisi and Vladikavkaz, the only road connecting us with Russia, destroyed by a natural disaster, has been restored after a closure of two-weeks. Truck drivers from neighboring Armenia, who waited patiently, were especially happy with the restoration, unlike the representatives of their government, who were able to create a new scandal within this short period, with the Minister of Transport, Gagik Beglaryan, visiting Tbilisi to ask Prime Minister Kvirikashvili to give them permission to take their cargo through occupied South Ossetia. Moscow was also involved in the talks.

“The road crossing South Ossetia is in good condition, and so negotiations are taking place between Russian and Georgian parties so that they can come to an agreement,” Beglaryan was cited as saying in Armenian media. PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili confirmed that consultations took place (apparently within the Karasin-Abashidze format), however the agreement was not made, since, as he said, Russia raised political demands about the status of the occupied territories.

“To me the hysteria following [Beglaryan’s] announcement is absolutely unreasonable,” said PM Kvirikashvili. “The law about the ‘occupied territories’ includes the point where in force majeure situations the cargo can be released with neutral status through the occupied territories. That is how we wanted to move the stopped cargo, in order not to create greater loss to our businessmen and others. The Russian Federation responded with an answer directly connected with the status of the territories recognized by them, and so we refused to let the cargo through on the alternative road. Our offer was to open this route only if in compliance with our legislation,” said Kvirikashvili.

Kvirikashvili’s words were confirmed by the so-called President of the South Ossetia Leonid Tibilov, who at the time Beglaryan was seeking alternatives for the cargo, was for some reason in Moscow talking about transportation issues in the Kremlin. It does not need much guesswork to deduce Tibilov was urgently invited to Moscow to talk exactly about this road issue. However, the Russian side was unable to make him agree, or to be more precise, they did not try hard enough to make him agree and both Tbilisi and official Yerevan were given a diplomatic refusal. Tibilov then announced the official position of the Kremlin: “We talked about the issue of the opening of the road through South Ossetia with our partners in Moscow, but Armenia has not addressed us officially about this case and everything depends completely on the normalization of relations between the two states (that is South Ossetia and Georgia).”

The prompt restoration of Dariali Gorge and opening of the highway has apparently put a full stop to this political scandal, however the stability in such an unstable place as Dariali is quite theoretical, as nobody knows when the road crossing Georgia, which is vital for Armenia, will be closed again. This could be the reason our neighboring Armenia is so active in the issue of diversifying transportation routes in Georgia, offering recommendations about opening the railway through occupied Abkhazia. However, this “support” from Official Yerevan only goes as far as transportation and does not include other directions, for example, in the voting that took place in the UN some weeks before the disaster about returning Georgian IDPs to their homes, Armenia voted against. Naturally, their decisions are shaped by Russian interests. Thus, all we can hope for is that if the Georgian Dream is unable to answer our neighbors, at least nature will help us in doing so.

Zaza Jgarkava  

14 July 2016 20:07