YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia will demand a 50 percent reduction in transit fees for its cargoes passing through Georgia–Transport and Communications Minister Yervand Zakharian said on Saturday. The Armenian government and private firms–which carry out most of their shipmen’s from and into Armenia through Georgian railway–are entitled to a tariff "discount" under the terms of a 1996 agreement–Zakharian told RFE/RL in an interview.
The agreement was signed by six Caucasian and Central Aisan states within the framework of the European Union’s TRACECA project to revive the ancient Silk Road. The signatories committed themselves to ensuring a more favorable transit regime for each other’s freight.
"Georgia has not applied the discount to Armenia for reasons unknown to us," Zakharian said. Yerevan will raise the issue with the Georgian government "in the coming days," he added.
The bulk of Armenia’s external trade has been conducted through the Georgian Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi since the oubreak of regional conflicts in the early 1990s which cut off its traditional trade routes.
Zakharian–who was named minister last week by President Robert Kocharian–said his most immediate task will be to accelerate work on the establishment of a regular ferry link between Poti and the nearest Russian Black Sea port. Analysts believe that the ferries capable of carrying freight cars would significantly reduce the high costs of exports to Russia and other former Soviet republics. (courtesy of RFE/RL)