The developers of a massive Black Sea port that the US sees as key to countering Russian influence in the region have hired a US firm to help resolve their dispute with the Georgian government.
The Anaklia Development Consortium (ADC) hired G7 Reputation Advisory effective July 1. The Connecticut firm’s founder Christopher Gidez is the sole registered lobbyist on the account.
Gidez and his firm are expected to lobby on “support for the continuing development of the Anaklia Deep Water Seaport,” according to the firm’s registration under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
The lobbying push comes after the Georgian government announced that it was canceling its 2016 contract with the US-Georgian consortium after a series of delays on the $2.5 billion project. The consortium members include TBC Holding of Georgia, Seattle-based terminal operator SSA Marine, Central Asian transportation company Wondernet Express and Bulgarian investor G-Star Ltd. (the Conti Group of US engineering companies left the consortium last year).
“The [Anaklia] project and others will enhance Georgia’s relationship with free economies and prevent Georgia from falling prey to Russian or Chinese economic influence.”Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Georgian Infrastructure Minister Maia Tskitishvili announced the cancellation in January, noting that the port was supposed to be ready this year.
“As you see, we have not arrived at this stage yet and it is nowhere in sight,” Tskitishvili said at the time. “This is what led to the revoking of the contract with this investor and we will be looking for a larger, more serious investor.”
“ADC has temporarily paused with filing an arbitration claim against the Government as Georgia responds to the Covid-19 public health crisis,” the group said in a May press release. “At the same time, ADC has voiced its willingness to avoid the arbitration so that the dispute does not further delay this strategic infrastructure project, and work cooperatively with the Government to attract additional investors and continue with the work that has already commenced.”
The US-backed project is at the heart of global geopolitical rivalries. With Georgia breaking ties with Russia and aspiring to join NATO, the deep sea port could allow US naval ships to sail close to Russia.
“I communicated our hope that Georgia completes the [Anaklia] port project,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a press conference with visiting Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze in June 2019. “The project and others will enhance Georgia’s relationship with free economies and prevent Georgia from falling prey to Russian or Chinese economic influence. Those pretend friends do not have Georgia’s best interests at heart.”
Further complicating things, the consortium’s founder, financier Mamuka Khazaradze, was indicted last July on decade-old charges of money laundering.
Georgia’s public defender last month said that there was no evidence to support the indictment, which was announced just weeks after Khazaradze said he planned to set up a civil movement in the country. That movement later became the Lelo for Georgia party, which is running in this October’s parliamentary elections.