By Armen Zakarian
Armenia refused to side with Russia in its dispute with Georgia over dual citizenship which manifested itself at a major international forum earlier this week, a senior Armenian official revealed on Saturday.
The deputy speaker of the parliament, Gagik Aslanian, told RFE/RL that he turned down a Russian request to block Georgia’s initiative to place the matter on the agenda of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The assembly, which brings together lawmakers from the OSCE’s 55 member states, ended its annual session in Berlin on Thursday. It discussed, among other issues, Georgian protests against a recently adopted Russian law that allows people of the former Soviet Union to obtain Russian citizenship within a short period of time.
The Georgian authorities claim that the law was primarily designed to prop up the de facto independence of its breakaway republic of Abkhazia. Thousands of its residents, among them ethnic Armenians, have already obtained Russian passports -- a development that could further complicate Tbilisi’s efforts to restore its control over the lush Black Sea region.
In accordance with the OSCE assembly’s “consensus minus one” rules, Russia needed the backing of at least one other delegation to block an embarrassing debate on the issue -- something which it failed to secure. Aslanian, who headed the Armenian parliamentary delegation in Berlin, said the Russians asked him to vote against the Georgian motion, but he refused after consulting with the government in Yerevan.
“They asked us to help Russia, but I chose to abstain during the vote because we have centuries-old friendly ties with both Russia and Georgia and taking sides in their dispute does not stem from our interests,” Aslanian said. This position was hailed by the Georgian delegation, he added.
It was the first-ever known case of Armenia refraining from endorsing the stance adopted by its closest ally, Russia, in the international stage.