The Roki, Psou Trade Corridor Saga


It oft happens an event of historical significance for the country is lost amid political trivialities. And that’s exactly what happened with regards to the agreement signed between Georgia and the Swiss-based company SGS, when the topic of the Roki and Psou trade corridors sank beneath the swearing incident that happened in Parliament. We could say that in our country’s reality, an event of such political importance hasn’t even been raised within the last 25 years.

On December 19, before Prime Minister Kvirikashvili used bad language in Parliament, an agreement was signed between Georgia and Swiss SGS. Now, it is primary that Russia comes to an agreement with the Swiss company, after which, all kinds of transport will have the green light to cross the Roki and Psou borders. Maybe it was because of this event that Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan coincidentally visited Tbilisi on December 25. The latter didn’t hide that Armenia was the most interested party in this agreement. “Armenia will benefit if it becomes possible to carry cargo to Russia via South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” Sargsyan told his Georgian colleague.

Armenian media reported that Armenia will soon break through the isolation and be able to connect with its main trade partner Russia via railway, as well as via the highway. Armenian media cited PM Kvirikashvili: “Turkey, Armenia and other countries which use Georgia’s transit potential will be able to use this corridor in force majeure situations. However, I repeat, this has only been signed by one side. We are continuing negotiations, because some terms offered by Russia are unacceptable.” Right after this last phrase, the PM started swearing.

Notably, the 2011 document on the membership of Russia in the WTO, is to expire next summer. Now everything is in the hands of Russia. In the coming weeks, we will see how honestly the Kremlin cares about the fate of their main ally in the Caucasus. Most importantly, if the agreement isn’t activated and Russia demands a review of the terms and conditions of the agreement of 2011, it means we were wrong to let them into the WTO. It is also interesting why the Georgian government changed its position: Foreign Affairs Minister Janelidze has yet to elaborate on why the local government changed its position with regards to the transportation corridor, since this company was selected by Switzerland as early as 2012, but signing the agreement was delayed by the Georgian side. Apparently, Karasin’s recent implications have gained the connotation of an ultimatum, and Kvirikashvili’s government decided to act on it, but to act in a way that would cause problems for its rival.

The Georgian side signed the agreement with the Swiss company without waiting for the same step from Moscow. Some believe that our government failed to even notify Russia of the event. Although neither Armenia nor any other “third country” are mentioned in the agreement, such transit does not contradict the clauses or the overall “spirit” of the document. As yet, nobody has confirmed the initiation of any activities between the Russian side and the Swiss. Apparently this continues to create “imaginative” problems between the Kremlin and its recognized “South Ossetia”, and Abkhazia; separatists from Tskhinvali and Sokhumi are meeting on a regular basis with Russian Gosduma MPs, their lobbyists, preparing for noisy interviews and stating that until they won’t be able to participate as an equal party in the process of signing the agreement, and until Georgia recognizes their independence, they won’t let any cargo transit through Tskhinvali. Most likely, such news awaited President Sargsyan on his visit to Moscow, where he flew directly from Tbilisi for an unofficial meeting of the CIS Presidents.

Zaza Jgarkava

11 January 2018 19:07