Three Transport Corridors between Russia and Georgia Can Become a Reality
Thanks to the dialogue between Georgia and Russia in the Karasin-Abashidze format, in the future, perhaps, quite serious progress will be recorded. In particular, transport corridors between the two countries can be created.
Back in 2011, when Russia negotiated with Georgia on the issue of membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) (Georgia was the only country blocking the way of the Russian Federation to the WTO), the parties signed an agreement on transport corridors. It envisaged the creation of three transport corridors, including ones through Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and transit through their territories should in no way affect the status of these entities. In addition, the third party should monitor transit, which, with the consent of the parties, should become the Swiss company SGS.
The delay of the implementation of the agreement for more than five years was due to various nuances and elements of the agreement (indirect participation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the scope of eligibility, etc.), concerning which the parties had different approaches.
Nevertheless, Moscow and Tbilisi seem to have been able to demonstrate sufficient political will and, as stated, a joint meeting of the Georgian and Russian parties, as well as representatives of the SGS Company is expected by the end of November. Within the framework of the meeting, Tbilisi and Moscow will sign separate agreements with the Swiss company. In case of their signing, three bilateral transport corridors will operate between Georgia and Russia, at both ends of which the observation posts of the Swiss company will be situated in order to control the transit.
According to the Russian-Georgian agreement of 2011:
- The first corridor starts in the area of Sochi and, passing through the territory of Abkhazia, ends in the city of Zugdidi.
- The second corridor starts near the village of Nar in North Ossetia and, passing through South Ossetia, ends in the city of Gori.
- The third corridor will be stretched between the Kazbegi-Upper Lars checkpoints.
It is interesting that in order to avoid issues related to the statuses of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the agreement does not mention geographical names, and instead of them just the geographical latitudes and longitudes are mentioned in the agreement.
The formation of transport corridors will also create an opportunity to exploit the Abkhazian railway, which was closed back in the 1990s. This is very important for Armenia as well, but is not in the interests of Baku at the same time. It should be emphasized, however, that some sections of the railway need to be restored, which will require certain time and finances.
The mechanism of transport corridors between the two countries is quite specific and will become the first one of its kind in the world. In fact, it provides an opportunity to separate the field of economic cooperation between the parties from the problem of resolving the conflict between them.
It is significant that both Moscow and Tbilisi have their own interest in the issue of creating transport corridors. The Russian side, fulfilling its obligations, also gets an opportunity to restore the transit opportunities of its southern regions, to increase trade cooperation with the South Caucasus and the Middle East. As for Georgia, the transport corridors, besides increasing the country's transit role, also provide an opportunity to create a favorable background in the process of Russian-Georgian negotiations, which can have a positive effect on removing some remaining restrictions on Georgian goods, as well as for lifting the visa regime for Georgian citizens. It should be noted, that despite the current tension in Russian-Georgian relations, the Russian market is of great importance for Georgia. Russia is the first country for the export of Georgian goods. About half of wine and vodka produced in Georgia, for example, is sold in the Russian market.
As for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the creation of a transport corridor passing through their territories is perceived ambiguously in both entities. On the one hand, this is seen as a blow to a more or less formed subjectivity, on the other hand, it is perceived as a new opportunity for economic development.
Summarizing all the above said, it can be noted that the formation of a transport corridor between Russia and Georgia and its exploitation will inevitably affect the entire region, creating new opportunities for various actors.