Transit Unfolds Economic Prospects for Georgian Conflicting Regions
25 April, 2013
Transit Unfolds Economic Prospects for Georgian Conflicting Regions
The increasing Russian-Turkish trade prospects unfold new vista of economic development for Georgian conflicting regions of Abkhazia and South Osetia, offering best direct on-land connections to Russia and Turkey. Turkish-Russian trade turnover accounting for USD 34 billion currently is expected to reach USD 100 billion their governments agreed on April 20, 2013 at Turkish-Russian Joint Economic Committee (JEC) held in Antalya, Turkey. And the most comfortable transit route to ship such hefty cargo turnover between these two trade partners is
the mutual neighbor Georgia with developed transport infrastructure connection to both Russia and Turkey. During this JEC event Turkey already suggested Russia to send around 160 thousand tons of Turkish agriculture products to Russia on-land via Upper Larsi check-point of Georgian-Russian Caucasian border, Ria Novosti reported on April 20, 2013. Georgian terrestrial route may also discharge Russian Black Sea ports that [unlike Georgian Black Sea ports] can accept no big ships during wintertime for inclement weather conditions. At any rate, the cargo transportation between Turkey and Russia will be quicker and easier via Georgia: the point is that today Russian-bound cargos go bypassing Georgia from Turkish ports to Russian ports where from freights head to Moscow [and other cities] by road. This detour makes the transportation trice longer, expensive and inconvenient while cargos can be shipped from Georgian-Turkish land border to Georgian-Russian Caucasian border in several hours. Georgian analysts believe this on-land trade project between Russia and Turkey can be a great opportunity to seceded Abkhazia and South Osetia bordering Russia. According to Soso Archvadze, an economic analyst, to make freight shipping more comfortable cargos can also find the way through Roki Tunnel car road that runs in parallel to Upper Larsi and connects South Osetia with Russian Federation. However, if highland Larsi and Roki passages are impenetrable since late fall until March due to heavy snow-falls and avalanches, the subtropical Abkhazia located on the Black Sea coast offers perfect alternative road and railway routes connecting with Russia without any seasonal breaks. This route is a natural part of the rail-and-road-ways running from Georgian-Turkish border through entire Georgian Black Sea littoral to Georgian-Russian border in Abkhazia. It is much shorter, cheaper and safer than the roads passing spooky landscapes to Upper Larsi and Roki. However, all these routes running through Georgian conflicting regions lay leisurely since early 90s when the territorial conflicts unleashed and Georgia imposed an economic blockade on the rebellious regions. As soon as the power shifted in fall of 2012 official Tbilisi appeared inclined to mitigate economic embargo and restore railway and road connections with Russia via Abkhazia but the latter appears still reluctant. Archvadze believes Abkhazia has no internal resources for economic development and persistence to such big transit projects will only lead it to isolation from the global economy; beening on markets’ integrity sooner or later will penetrate to Abkhazia perhaps at terms hazardous to Abkhazian aspiration to independence.
Paata Sheshelidze, President of New Economic School, thinks that economic blockade was a mistake that brought to no good results and it is high time to restore the banned routes and economic relations between official Tbilisi and its breakaway regions.
“This new transit opportunity considered for Russian-Turkish trade is an opportunity to Abkhazia [and South Osetia] to get stronger from economic point of view; however official Tbilisi should think of more than pure economic benefits [that will ensue increased transit potential] such as direct communication opportunities with Abkhazians,” he told Georgian Journal.
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