By Emil Danielyan
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Friday that Armenia has received no “official” requests for assistance from embattled Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, again ruling out Yerevan’s involvement in the post-election political crisis in Georgia.
"Georgia has not officially asked our state to assist in the settlement of its internal political situation," he told reporters in Moscow after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
Oskanian reiterated his government’s hopes for the restoration of “political stability” in Armenia’s key neighbor rocked by opposition protests against alleged fraud in this month’s parliamentary elections. His assurances came in response to speculation that Shevardnadze is trying to drum up support from the neighboring countries through Aslan Abashidze, the powerful head of Georgia’s Ajaria region who has sided with him in the standoff with the opposition.
Incidentally, Oskanian’s talks with Ivanov followed the latter’s meeting with Abashidze who too arrived in the Russian capital the previous night. The Ajar leader, whose pro-Russian stance has sharply contrasted with Shevardnadze’s pro-Western line over the past decade, paid unexpected visits to Yerevan and Baku this week where he discussed the situation with Presidents Robert Kocharian and Ilham Aliev.
The talks followed Shevardnadze’s phone conversations with both men, which led his political opponents to suggest that he is seeking external interference in the Georgian crisis. Mikhail Saakashvili, an outspoken opposition leader, alleged in particular that Shevardnadze is ready to use Russian troops stationed in Armenia, Ajaria and the Armenian-populated Javakheti region to quell daily street protests in Tbilisi. He also claimed that the Georgian regime will fan separatist sentiment among Javakheti’s population to deflect public attention from serious vote irregularities reported by Western and domestic monitors.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Armenian embassy in Tbilisi said Yerevan will not meddle in Georgia’s domestic affairs “under any circumstances.” Oskanian claimed that Kocharian himself phoned Shevardnadze to obtain “first-hand information” about the situation in the country which serves as Armenia’s main conduit to the outside world.
Shevardnadze, meanwhile, made an emotional appeal to Georgians not to attend on Friday what the opposition said will be its biggest anti-government demonstration yet. He warned that the country risks sliding from "civil confrontation into civil war."