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Russia, Georgia Reach Agreement On Abkhaz Railways --> (RFE/RL) 16 December 2005 -- Russia and Georgia today agreed on concrete steps to restore the Abkhaz section of the Tbilisi-Sochi railway link.

Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin made the announcement in Tbilisi at the close of a joint government meeting.

Levitin said both Russia and Georgia favored the idea of setting up an international consortium to refurbish the line, which could be fully operational within two years.

"To set up a consortium, found the necessary funds, and decide on how our custom and border services should work, that will take some time, too," Levitin said. "[But] from a purely technical viewpoint, we need a year-and-a-half to restore this section."

In comments reported by the Mediamax news agency, Armenian Transport Minister Andranik Manukian said his country was ready to take part "without delay" in the renovation works.

Direct Georgian-Russian railway traffic through Georgia's separatist republic of Abkhazia came to a halt in the mid-1990s. Officials say the reopening of the link would benefit not only Georgia and Russia, but also the entire South Caucasus region.

Levitin today said it would take up to two years before the Tbilisi-Sochi link becomes operational again.

(Imedi TV/Novosti-Gruziya/Mediamax/RFE/RL)