Civil Georgia, Georgia
Nov. 4, 2004

PM: Talks over Rail Resumption via Abkhazia `Untimely'

Both Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and Foreign Minister
Salome Zourabichvili said on November 4 that discussions over resuming
the Russian-Georgian railway link via Abkhazia are `untimely.'

`Despite Moscow's active involvement, [political forces] in Abkhazia
four weeks after [the October 3 presidential] elections still failed to
decide to whom the power belongs. So talks [about restoration of the
railway] are untimely, before the situation is normal there,' Zurab
Zhvania told reporters.

`At first let's wait [and see] how the events will develop in Abkhazia.
Then peace talks in frames of the Geneva process should be restored and
we should see then what the sides are ready for. Then real return of
the internally displaced persons to Gali district [of Abkhazia] should
start. There are some reports that 60 thousand IDPs have already
returned to the Gali district. But this is Russian data. The UN reports
that the real number of returned IDPs does not exceed 30-35 thousand.
And even these people do not permanently live in Gali,' Salome
Zourabichvili told reporters on November 4.

Meanwhile, Russia has proposed setting up a joint railway venture with
the South Caucasus states in order to unite efforts in restoring a
railway connection in the region. The Russian and Armenian railway
chiefs have already signed an agreement over the creation of such a
company.