By Emil Danielyan
The Georgian government’s main security agency has accused Armenia through a newspaper of harboring terrorist groups that are allegedly plotting to provoke an armed insurgency in Georgia’s Armenian-populated areas. Citing “secret information” obtained from the security ministry in Tbilisi, the weekly “Georgian Times” claimed this week that President Robert Kocharian and a mainstream political party supporting him have close ties with “Armenian terrorists.”
“The materials unofficially provided by the antiterrorist center of the Security Ministry reveal that official Yerevan provides several terrorist organizations with cutting-edge technology arms, including missiles,” it said. “The present leaders of Armenia, including the President, do not conceal that they maintain close relations with Armenian terrorists.”
The bombshell article, full of factual inaccuracies, appears to be official Tbilisi’s first-ever overt verbal attack on Yerevan and could undermine generally good relations between the two neighboring states. With their virulence, the allegations contained in it match similar charges frequently levelled against Armenia by Azerbaijan.
The English-language paper quoted Georgia’s former Soviet-era KGB as saying that leaders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), an influential party branded as a “terrorist organization,” met last March in Switzerland to plan a separatist movement in the Armenian-populated Javakhetia region in southern Georgia. “Millions of dollars were gathered at this meeting that will be spent on the propaganda and arms. Arms will be bought in one of the countries of the Middle East to provide them to local residents and the active "Dashnak" organizations in the region,” reads what it said is “an excerpt from the document of the Security Ministry Antiterrorist Center.”
The paper said “attacks on civilian targets” in Javakhetia would be carried out by several terrorist organizations, the “most powerful" of them being what it described as the Secret Army of Armenia. This was an apparent reference to the now defunct Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), a Diaspora-based militant group that had assassinated dozens of Turkish diplomats in the 1970s and 1980s. The ultimate aim of the planned violent campaign, according to the Georgian ex-KGB, is Javakhetia’s secession from Georgia and unification with Armenia.
The head of the security ministry’s intelligence department, Avtandil Ioseliani, was quoted as saying that although “there are many Armenian terrorist organizations,” none of them poses a threat to Georgia’s territorial integrity. The paper, however, implied that Ioseliani privately endorsed the extraordinary accusations.
The Armenian government has not yet officially reacted to the report. With Saturday a non-working day, officials in Yerevan could not reached for comment. Still, some sources said the Armenian embassy in Tbilisi has been instructed to demand an explanation from Georgian officials. “This is the first time that the Georgians have done such a bad and ridiculous thing,” one of them told RFE/RL.
The Georgian weekly, again citing government information, accuses Kocharian of having masterminded “terrorist attacks” against Azerbaijani civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Georgian security ministry, according to it, believes that “Armenian terrorism is a destabilizing factor not only to Azerbaijan, but it also threatens Georgia, Turkey, Western Europe and the United States.”
The administration of President Eduard Shevardnadze has never publicly expressed discontent with Armenia’s position on ethnic tensions periodically flaring up in Javakhetia. Successive governments in Yerevan have urged local Armenian groups to show restraint in their drive to win greater self-rule for the impoverished region, anxious to maintain good relations with Georgia. This policy has often been criticized as too soft by the local Armenians.
The two governments discussed the situation in Javakhetia as recently as this week when Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and his Georgian counterpart, Avtandil Jorbenadze, met in Moscow on the sidelines of a high-level CIS gathering. Markarian said on Friday that the talks focused on Armenia’s financial contribution to Tbilisi’s declared plans to address the area’s enormous socioeconomic problems.
Under a bilateral agreement signed in 1999, Armenia has already funded and carried out the construction of a 60-kilometer high-voltage power line that allowed it to supply electricity directly to Javakhetia. The supplies have alleviated severe power shortages there.