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Georgia: EBRD Urges Private Investment In 'Silk Road' Projects

Kyiv, 11 May 1998 (RFE/RL) - A high ranking official at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) told private western investors today that they would be wise to put money into transportation projects in Georgia. The EBRD is increasing its own investments, part of which are linked to an ambitious European Union transport project aimed at linking road, rail and sea routes from China to Europe. Georgia is at the western end of the so-called 'Traceca' transport corridor, which is being hailed as the 'silk road for the 21st century.'

Olivier Descamps, the director of the EBRD's Caucasus team, told a gathering of international business leaders in Kyiv that the EBRD is increasing its own investments in Georgia. He said that out of $70 million that the EBRD has committed to projects in Georgia, about $40 million was approved during the last year.

But several regional leaders, including Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, warned that conflicts, including those in Afghanistan and Tajikistan and tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan, need to be settled before regional trade can truly expand. Sharif said attempts to develop the region economically would fail without peace and security. His words were echoed by Karimov.

Also today, Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev pledged his support for a pipeline to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Speaking in Baku, he said the main oil pipeline would go on the route Baku-Georgia-Ceyhan.

In Kyiv, Teimuraz Mamatshashvili, the head of the Georgian delegation at the EBRD meeting, told RFE/RL that the shortest and most economical route between Baku and the Turkish port is through Georgia. But Mamatshashvili, who is also Georgia's Ambassador to the United Kingdom, noted that a final decision on the pipeline route is still under consideration by the international oil consortium.