TBILISI (Combined Sources)–The Georgian Foreign Ministry has denied it was negotiating with Russia on reopening of Zemo Larsi border crossing point between the two countries, which was closed down by Moscow in 2006.
Speaking on Monday, Deputy Georgian Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze stressed that no Russian-Georgian meetings had been held in Yerevan.
Kalandadze said, however, that the Georgian Foreign Ministry officials were in Yerevan last week and held talks on the matter with the Armenian counterparts, but not with the Russian officials. She said that the issue was discussed with Armenia as resumption of land traffic between Georgia and Russia “is of vital importance” for Yerevan.
“The opening of the Zemo Larsi control point is vital for Armenia, and considering its interests, the Georgian side may make some compromise decision on that issue and open the border under the same conditions as before it was closed, Kalandadze said, noting that “Russia still creates problems on this question.”
Russia’s federal agency in charge of the border infrastructure also said in its press release on October 30 that the Russian delegation at the meeting was led by deputy head of the agency, Yuri Maltsev, and the Georgian side was represented by head of the Foreign Ministry’s European department, Kakha Chitadze.
The release also said the two sides at the meeting “confirmed their principal interest in the swift resumption of traffic” through the Zemo Larsi checkpoint. It also said that the two sides had exchanged information about the border crossing point’s condition and “noted that from the technical point of view it was ready for reopening.”
It also said that the two sides exchanged information about the border crossing point’s condition and “noted that from the technical point of view it was ready for reopening.” “Results of the working meeting of experts will be passed on to the Russian and Georgian leadership for taking final decision,” the Russia’s federal agency said.
Thus far, the Larsi opening issue has been negotiated with Moscow through the Swiss Embassy, as Switzerland represents the Kremlin’s interests in Georgia and Georgia’s interests in Moscow.
But the reopening of this border point is complicated as there has been no diplomatic relations between Georgia and Russia since the August war and Moscow’s recognition of South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence.
Russia closed the Zemo Larsi border gate in 2006 for what it said were necessary repairs to the checkpoint. Land traffic between the two countries stopped after the closure. The two other border crossings are located in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Russia completed repairs on its side in early May 2009 and Georgia, with U.S. assistance, completed reconstruction of its side of the checkpoint in September this year.
This summer during his visit to Yerevan, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said that Georgia would be ready to open the Larsi checkpoint as soon as the repair works were finished.
“We consider that all roads should be open for free movement. The closure of Zemo Larsi has led to problems in cargo transportation in Georgia, and especially in Armenia. We have told the Russian side that we are willing to negotiate on this issue with Switzerland, as this country represents the interests of Russia. We are now repairing the road to the checkpoint on our side. When we’re done, we will be ready to open it,” Saakashvili said at a joint press conference with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian in June 2009.