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Ivanishvili Says Azeri-Turkey Link Threatens Georgian Revenue

Dec. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire who became Georgia’s prime minister in October, wants further discussions with Azerbaijan on a planned rail link to Turkey, saying the project threatens Georgian revenue.

“Construction of new railways may take away some of the cargo workload from Georgian ports and Georgian Railways,” Ivanishvili told reporters today in the capital, Tbilisi. “We therefore need to hold consultations with our neighbors, first of all with Azerbaijan.”

Azerbaijan loaned Georgia $775 million to build a link connecting the Azeri capital Baku and Turkey’s eastern province of Kars via Georgia. Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, which is backed by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, will also connect the Central Asian rail network to Europe via a route bypassing Russia.

Ivanishvili said that his concerns are “economic” only and that he’s not seeking to cancel the “interesting” project. He said he’ll discuss the price Georgia pays for Azeri natural gas when he visits Baku Dec. 26.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zulfugar Agayev in Baku at zagayev@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hellmuth Tromm at htromm@bloomberg.net

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