While scanning EurasiaNet, I noticed the following article on a new proposed railway from Turkey to Azerbaijan via Georgia. Since I will be hopefully be in the region early next year, I found of particular interest:
ARMENIA OPPOSES TURKISH-GEORGIAN-AZERI RAIL PROJECT
Plans for the construction of a major railway linking Turkey to Azerbaijan via Georgia are prompting mounting concern in Armenia. Officials in Yerevan, fearing the completion of the railway would further isolate Armenia, have pressured Georgia to pull out of the multimillion-dollar project. The railway also is facing objections from the United States and the European Union.
Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey revealed their intention to pursue the railway project in May 2005 during the ceremonial opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline. The presidents of the three nations said the rail link, estimated to cost roughly $400 million, would promote regional economic integration and create a new transport corridor between Europe and Central Asia.
The project essentially boils down to laying an almost 100-kilometer-long rail track between the eastern Turkish city of Kars and the southern Georgian town of Akhalkalaki. Armenian officials insist that the project makes no economic sense, pointing to the existing railroad running from Kars to the northern Armenian city of Gyumri and on to the two other South Caucasus countries. The Kars-Gyumri link has stood idle for over a decade due to the continuing Turkish economic blockade of Armenia.
As international interest in the Caucasus increases, Armenia is increasingly realizing the danger of its isolation as the train pulls out of the station without them. Sandwiched between Turks, the borders are closed to Azerbaijan and Turkey leaving the only way in through Iran or Georgia. With almost no natural resources and being the one occupying land that at least technically belongs to another sovereign country, Armenia doesn’t have many cards in its hand. Russian backing and Iranian trade are keeping the country afloat, but for how long?
Fighting in Nagorno-Karbagh won’t benefit the Armenias as the international community is more worried about Azerbaijan and its oil. The BTC pipeline makes Azerbaijan some pretty valuable geostrategic real estate. Armenia wears its desperation on its sleeve. This tiny wedge of a country has only its diaspora to rely on for financial support (around 40% of its GDP I believe) and the alleged Armenian Genocide for international support and sympathy. This says it all:
. As an incentive, Yerevan has indicated that it would make the Gyumri hub available without insisting that Turkey lift its economic blockade. “Armenia is ready to let Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan use the existing railway line on Armenian territory without Armenia’s participation,” Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian reiterated during an official visit to Tbilisi on June 27.
One thing is certain, the longer Armenia holds out on a Karbagh resolution, the more it’ll lose. To offer Armenia some simple, yet seemingly much needed advice: There is no good solution, choose the lesser evil.
SIDENOTE:Readers, if we collapse Iran, what will the consequences be for Armenia?