Russia and Georgia find substitute for Georgian Military Road
After many years of negotiations, Moscow and Tbilisi have taken the bold step of implementing the 2011 historic agreement, which sets trade corridors through the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to increase trade between Russia and Georgia. At the same time, the agreement does not touch upon the insoluble problem of the status of the former Georgian autonomies.
Representatives of Georgia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Finance, tax authorities and customs issued a long-term contract with the Swiss company SGS, regarding the monitoring of cargo traffic between Russia and Georgia. Swiss observers will monitor both sides of the trade corridors - and not just in Sochi and Vladikavkaz, but also in Georgia's Zugdidi and Gori. Cargo will be registered in the "points of monitoring" in accordance with the customs legislation of the two states. This creates a practical opportunity to establish a permanent car connection between Russia and the countries of Transcaucasia on alternative routes, not only along the Georgian Military Road, but also through Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
This is the main reason for the implementation of the six-year-old agreement, since the only highway from Georgia to Russia through the Kazbegi (Georgian Military Road) is extremely dangerous and almost unusable. The old route has no prospects for development, if the Georgian authorities fulfill their long-standing promise to build a tunnel for this road, which would allow to pass the most dangerous areas.
Responding to the opposition's claims about "a capitulation to Russia", Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said that the 2011 Russian-Georgian agreement and the agreements reached on the eve "will allow the redirection of goods along the Gori-Tskhinvali-Vladikavkaz route." That is, we are talking about the resumption of traffic on a road that has been idle since the 2008 five-day war. Thus, not only Georgia, but also Armenia will have the opportunity to develop trade with Russia, using a more convenient route: cases when Armenian cargo gets stuck on the road will be less frequent, since the route through South Ossetia is better equipped and less exposed to natural risks than the Georgian Military Road.
In the future, the 2011 Russian-Georgian agreement and the involvement of the Swiss firm will also allow to resume the railway movement through the territory of Abkhazia. However, unlike Georgia, Russia has not yet signed a contract with SGS, and in order to make the trade corridors work, Moscow's "signature" is needed. But, as the Georgian Foreign Ministry told Vestnik Kavkaza, "taking into account the active involvement of all interested parties, there is hope that the second will sign the contract with SGS in the coming days."