ARMENIA AND GEORGIA: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Sergey MINASIAN


Sergey Minasian, Ph.D. (Hist.), Head of the Department of Political Studies, Institute of the Caucasus (Erevan, Armenia)


Introduction

Relations between Armenia and Georgia go back many centuries into the history of these two neighboring nations. The recent history of their relations as two post-Soviet newly independent states is only two decades old, which means that certain problems have not yet been resolved.

Both countries have to cope with political, ethnopolitical, economic, linguistic, and religious problems; the situation in both countries is further complicated by the far from simple processes of nation-building and the countries involvement in bloody ethnopolitical conflicts in the Caucasus. This has inevitably affected the political and socioeconomic development of both Armenia and Georgia.

Here I am going to assess the general dynamics, present state, possible prospects, and potential problems in Armenian-Georgian relations. I have paid particular attention to the main parameters of their relations in the economic, communication, political, military, cultural, educational, and humanitarian spheres, to say nothing of an especially important aspect regarding the Russian factor in Armenian-Georgian relations and the situation in Samtskhe-Javakheti, an administrative region of Georgia with a predominantly Armenian population.

Cooperation in the Economy and Communications

Economic cooperation between the two countries is mainly limited to the transit of goods to and from Armenia and of energy resources from Russia to Armenia across Georgia. The economies of both Armenia and Georgia are poorly integrated; they operate in different markets; they deal with different importers, while the structures of their economies have little in common, etc.

Trade turnover between them is carried out via one railway and two highways (the Bagratashen and Bavra checkpoints). The Guguti checkpoint on the border between Armenia (Tashir Region) and Georgia (the Kvemo-Kartli administrative region) is rarely used. The electric power systems of the two countries are connected by several power lines. Georgian territory is crossed by the North-South main gas pipeline, which brings Russian gas to Armenia. Armenia receives commodities from the outside world via Georgia (through the Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi) and along the highways from Turkey (through the Vale and Sarpi checkpoints; another checkpoint at Karzakhi will soon be opened). The still unsettled Nagorno-Karabakh conflict makes the transit of goods from Azerbaijan to Armenia via Georgia practically impossible.

It should be said that, on the whole, the intensity of transit of Armenian cargoes across Georgia depends on the political situation. In March 2010, after a long hiatus caused by political problems between Russia and Georgia, the Verkhniy Lars checkpoint on the


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