By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia’s leading parliamentary parties added on Thursday their voice to official Yerevan’s concerns over the latest bloodshed in Abkhazia which has resulted in heavy casualties among the region’s substantial Armenian population. Leaders of the main parliamentary factions said the government should act quickly to ensure security of local Armenians.
The leader of the largest Miasnutyun faction, Galust Sahakian, said Armenia should “take certain steps” for that purpose. He did not elaborate, saying only that “we should be moderate in our statements.” “We have to weigh up how beneficial our interference in the clashes would be,” Sahakian told reporters.
Simmering tensions in Abkhazia, which broke away from Georgian control in the early 1990s, have flared up into renewed violence over the past several days. At least ten local Armenians were reportedly killed in separate attacks on two village’s near the Black Sea republic’s lawless Kodor gorge. The Abkhaz authorities have blamed the bloody raids on Georgian and Chechen militants which they say operate in the area.
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian on Wednesday expressed concern at the killings and said the Armenian government has come into contact with the Abkhaz and Georgian officials in an effort to protect the Armenian population from further attacks.
Another major parliamentary party, the nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), said the National Assembly should consider sending a special fact-finding mission to the region. The head of the Dashnaktsutyun faction, Aghvan Vartanian, claimed that at least 16 Armenian civilians are known to have been killed in Abkhazia over the past week.
Senior opposition deputies called for more active Armenian intervention in Abkhazia. “Our government must demand from both the Georgian and Abkhaz parties to end the acts of violence against the Armenian population,” said Frunze Kharatian of the Communist Party.
Oskanian and other senior officials are seen as favoring a cautious line on the latest events in Abkhazia. Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian argued on Thursday that a further “destabilization” of the situation in the region would have an adverse impact on Armenia “in economic and other spheres.”