Georgia does not consider the Zangezur Corridor to be a competitor to the existing road through «Verkhny Lars»

Georgia does not consider the Zangezur Corridor to be a competitor to the existing road through «Verkhny Lars»

Since 2020, the diplomats of Azerbaijan and Russia have been working tirelessly and jointly to open the Zangezur corridor, which significantly shortens and reduces the cost of the route between Russia and Armenia.  The Armenian side delays the opening of the corridor with various political arguments, but agrees that the new short-cut route will bring economic benefits to this country. According to Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic Mher Grigoryan, problems with the capacity of the Georgian automobile checkpoint «Verkhny Lars» seriously hinder "the export of agricultural products from Armenia to the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union"

Official Tbilisi is not involved in negotiations on the deblocking the Zangezur corridor. In addition to the fact that this road is geographically remote from the territory of Georgia, the silence of the leadership of this country is explained by Tbilisi's unwillingness to lose the status of having no alternative to the only existing road through «Verkhny Lars», along which Armenian trucks reach Russia.   

The capacity of «Verkhny Lars» is 200 passenger cars, 170 trucks, 30 buses and 4,000 individuals per day. In fact, the flow of goods and passengers is much larger, and traffic flows are growing every year.

Gia Tsipuria, Secretary General of the Association of International Cargo Carriers of Georgia, recalls that the Georgian budget receives $80 from each truck passing through «Verkhny Lars».  If the road were unprofitable for Georgia, the country would not invest in expanding its capacity.  Moreover, "one cannot hope for the opening alternative roads through Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the near future," he believes.  In addition, for Georgia, the supply of goods through this route to Central Asia is cheaper than through ports and using a ferry.

The main alternative bypass route for Russian and Georgian carriers is through the Yarag-Kazmalar checkpoint on the Russian-Azerbaijani border (the southern border of Dagestan and the Republic of Azerbaijan is 500 m from the bridge over the Samur River, opened in 2003). This road will become shorter and more attractive for cargo delivery to Armenia with the opening of the Zangezur transport corridor. After peace is established between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Armenian companies will be able to use the road.

Does Georgia want to open a competitive route through Armenia and Azerbaijan? Tornike Sharashenidze, a professor at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, is confident that the danger of opening Armenian-Azerbaijani communications to Georgia's transit function is greatly exaggerated.

"It will take time and considerable funds to restore the old and build new Armenian-Azerbaijani-Russian communications," he said in an interview with “Kommersant.” According to the expert, "even if Azerbaijan restores the railway line to Nakhichevan, it is unlikely to be able to meet all the needs of Azerbaijan, Nakhichevan and especially Turkiye."  Mr. Sharashenidze considers the potential of the ports in Batumi and Poti, from which goods can be sent anywhere in the world, to be unique and irreplaceable.

Paata Zakareishvili, director of the Tbilisi Institute for the Study of Nationalism and Conflict, says that if the road opens through Armenia and further through Azerbaijan, "there will be an outflow of some goods from Georgia to Russia, since due to the temporary closures of the Upper Lars checkpoint and kilometer traffic jams, it is impossible to calculate the time of cargo transportation through Georgia. There are a lot of cars, so despite the short journey, due to the idle time of trucks, transportation is more expensive.  But all the same, with the opening of the Zangezur corridor, roads through Georgia will be used. He noted the extreme congestion of the Georgian ports (Black Sea) as an indicator of the preference for carriers of the route through Georgia.

Zakareishvili even noted the benefits for Georgia from unblocking the Zangezur highway, as in general the transport importance of the South Caucasus will increase, and the region will become more reliable for global transport carriers.

At the same time, all experts agree that the opening of the Zangezur road is not a matter of time soon due to the difficult political events in Azerbaijani-Armenian relations, to which the severity of Russian participation in the region is added.

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