By Hrach Melkumian
Armenia is concerned about political turmoil in Georgia and hopes that its only Christian neighbor will avoid major “destabilization,” Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Friday.
“We are extremely concerned about the developments in Georgia and are closely following them,” Oskanian told journalists in Yerevan. “Stability in Georgia is very important for us. I would say as important as our own stability.”
Eduard Shevardnadze: in anticipation of further upheavals
The bulk of landlocked Armenia’s external trade is carried out via Georgia, notably through its Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi. The country, which is facing an economic blockade imposed by neighboring Azerbaijan and Turkey over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, suffered substantial financial losses during the prolonged period of instability in Georgia in the early 1990s.
Oskanian said Yerevan hopes that the crisis, triggered by an attempted police raid on Georgia’s main independent television station, will be overcome soon.
The two nations pledged to deepen their ties at a summit in Yerevan last week. Presidents Robert Kocharian and Eduard Shevardnadze signed a comprehensive treaty on “friendship, cooperation and mutual security.”
Shevardnadze, increasingly blamed by Georgians for economic hardship and rampant corruption, sacked his entire cabinet on Thursday amid the continuing outcry over what is widely seen as an attempt by his security ministers to muzzle independent media. Although the move seems to have defused the tensions, political analysts say more political battles lie ahead.
Reports from Tbilisi said hundreds of student protesters rallied Friday near the Georgian government offices, demanding Shevardnadze’s resignation. The crowd of demonstrators, shrinking and swelling at times to about 1,000, was a far less than the thousands who massed in the capital the day before, according to the Associated Press.