14:43 28.12.2006
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Expert: Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi-Baku project contradicts Georgia's
interests The _Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi-Baku_ project contradicts
Georgia's interests, as the main goal of the project initiated by
Ankara and Baku envisages turning Turkey into the key communication
center of the region, which indirectly supposes that role of Georgian
ports of Poti and Batumi will be reduced to zero, expert of Caucasus
Analytical Center _Aris Kazinyan_ believes.

According to him, despite the fact that officially the project is seen
in Georgia as a key factor of national security, however, in some
sense, the decision on participating in the project was imposed on
Tbilisi, so it is taken ambiguously by Georgia itself. Today many in
the country believe that the project decreases sharply Georgian
geopolitical opportunities and turns it into a kind of transit
state. As for Turkish position concerning the project, Kazinyan says,
an approach contrary to the Georgian one can be registered. In this
case, there is a traditional conflict of US and Turkish interests
involving the North-South corridor.

`The question is, Turkey is trying to minimize the role of Poti
andBatumi, and, as we can see, much money is being spent for it,' the
expert says.

Besides, the USA factor is to be taken into account here. As Kazinyan
stressed, in this case, it is no matter to the USA what projects will
be implemented in the South-Caucasian region, the only requirement is
to provide the East-West direction instead of the North-South
one. This is the very reason why official Washington has shown a
restrained, to some extent, a pro-Armenian position concerning
effectiveness and prospects of laying the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilis
railroad. To some extent, the USA supports approach of official
Yerevan concerning effectiveness of operating the railway between Kars
and Tbilisi via the Armenian Gyumri, as in this case it meets the
interests of the Armenian lobby and official Yerevan (on the one hand)
and provides for latitudinal direction of communications, on the other
hand.

The USA is mostly interested, as the expert says, in Georgia's NATO
membership, as it will put an end to possibility of using the
North-South direction.

In general, according to Kazinyan, operation of the
Kars-Gyumri-Tbilisi railway could have been profitable for
Turkey. `First, it could be good will gesture for Armenia. Besides, it
would make it unnecessary spend $400 mln for construction of the
Kars-Akhalkalaki section,' the expert says. Moreover, as Kazinyan
notes, Armenia will become a hostage as it will only join Azerbaijan
and Turkey and nothing more. `In this situation Armenia does not have
access to Russia, it is difficult to imagine that an Armenian train
could reach Russia bypassing 7-8 Azerbaijani provinces.' According to
the expert, the only factor that makes Turkey disagree with the
variant is the prospective threat to its long-term interests that can
emerge in case the Georgian ports are modernized and a more stable
connection starts functioning between them and East-European Black Sea
ports.

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