Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has paid an official visit to Armenia with several ministers this week, in order to meet with his Armenian counterpart Tigran Sargsyan, and President Serz Sargsyan. The two Prime Ministers spoke about deepening cooperation between the two neighboring countries, in political and economical spheres. Armenian PM Sargsyan said that the Abkhazia-Georgia-Armenia railway is one of the prioritized issues in the bi-lateral relations between the two nations, saying, “We discussed this during our meeting. Armenia is interested in settlement of the issue.”
Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has repeatedly stated that Georgia is ready to operate the railway link again and stressed that there is no controversy between Armenia and Georgia in this regard. Ivanishvili emphasized the desire for Georgian-Armenian relations to reach their full cooperative potential, telling RFE/RL in an exclusive interview:
I think Armenian-Georgian relations can today be considered normal and even good. We spoke about their future with your president and prime minister. I think we agreed that our centuries-old relations must become ideal and exemplary. This is what I personally and our new government are aiming for, and I felt the same desire by the Armenian government.”
Ivanishvili, who defeated Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s party in last October’s parliamentary elections, will probably take power after Saakashvili’s completion of term later this year. Saakashvili has called Ivanishvili’s plan to re-open railway lines ‘alarming’, highlighting several elements which he found of concern:
The first one is that the statement contains no geopolitical and strategic interest. The railway, which passes through Abkhazian territory, is a way which once used to connect Georgia with Europe through Russia. It is quite an old railway. At that time we didn’t have any railway therefor after Russia closed that way, joint with Azerbaijan we built Kars-Akhalkalaki railway. Accordingly, Georgia has no interest in restoring that railway. Exploitation of that railway is beneficial for Russia for only one reason that is Akhalkalaki railway line is the competitor of Trans-Siberian Railway. That railway is aimed at transportation of cargo from China and Central Asia to Europe. That is why our railway creates a serious threat,” Saakashvili said.
In a press conference in Yerevan, Ivanishvili pledged to do everything possible to make Armenians living in Georgia feel at home and to bring the nations closer together, telling the media, “I will do what I promised in my election program”.
RFE/RL: an interview with PM Bidzina Ivanishvili: