Meeting in Tbilisi on March 13-14, Presidents Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia and Mesut Yilmaz of Turkey signed a set of agreements on:
–routing the main oil export pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia (in circumvention of Russia)
–connecting the two countries by a railroad line from Kars in eastern Turkey to Akhalkalaki in southern Georgia
–opening a third border-crossing facility between the two countries and building a highway through it
–building a high-voltage power transmission line from Turkey via Georgia to Azerbaijan, to serve the needs of the three countries
–opening an air service between Tbilisi and Trabzon and jointly using Georgia’s Batumi airport
–cooperation between Georgia’s nascent coastal guard and the Turkish Coast Guard.
Shevardnadze termed the decisions "historic." The Turkish armed forces’ deputy chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Mehmed Bashpinar, held parallel talks with Georgian military commanders. (Radio Tbilisi and Turkish TV cited by Russian agencies, March 13-14).
The agreements on coastal guard cooperation and on the Batumi airport carry military and security implications, as Georgia seeks to take over the control of its maritime border and of Batumi airport from Russian forces. The railroad link and some of the other projects had been under consideration for some time. There is still no official information about financing. Once achieved, these projects should in effect free Georgia’s and Azerbaijan’s vital communications from Russian control, anchoring the two countries through Turkey to the West. The decisions underscore Turkey’s attractiveness as a partner to Georgia and Azerbaijan, and by the same token the risk of isolation faced by Armenia.
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