by Armen Zakarian
Speaking to RFE/RL on 19 November, Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian said that stability in Georgia is absolutely essential for Armenia. "It would not be an exaggeration to say that stability on Georgian territory is vital for us," he said. The second most powerful man in Armenia also warned Georgians against, as he put it, "anti-Armenian hysteria," claiming that unnamed Georgian politicians resorted to anti-Armenian rhetoric in the runup to the 2 November Georgian parliamentary election.
The defense minister dismissed the suggestion that the crisis in Georgia could spill over to other countries of the region and create a regional crisis. Sarkisian, who also heads the Armenian National Security Council, believes that the Georgian political crisis will not fuel U.S.-Russian rivalry in the South Caucasus. "My hope is that it will not happen, and my optimism is not based only on my wish and belief but also on my analysis of developments during the past two years," Sarkisian said. The great powers don't need new problems because they have more serious issues to deal with, they would rather join forces to solve this problem, he argued.
Speaking about the prospects for reviving the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, Sarkisian said that it will be possible to talk about the conflict only after the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen visit the region. That visit is to take place in early December. "Maybe they will bring new proposals. Then we can be more specific about the process," Sarkisian said. He added that Armenia is still committed to the three principles outlined by President Robert Kocharian. "Karabakh must not be put under the direct control of Azerbaijan; Karabakh will not remain as an enclave but should have a land border with Armenia; and Karabakh must have hard security guaranties," Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian also warned officials in Baku against calling for a renewed war with Armenia. "The Armenian army is now much stronger than ever before. If Azeris knew that they could fight a successful war, they would not hesitate for a minute," Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian dismissed predictions by some opposition leaders that a regime change is imminent. He rejected opposition criticism that more people from Karabakh are being promoted to the highest echelons of the power. According to Sarkisian, the ratio of politicians who are from Karabakh is very low compared to the others. "What is wrong with promoting one 'Karabakhzi' compared with 50 other promoted officials who are from Armenia?" he asked rhetorically.