By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia welcomed on Monday the widely anticipated landslide victory of Mikhail Saakashvili in Georgia’s weekend presidential election, saying it bodes well for the strengthening of ties between the two Caucasus neighbors.
“The Armenian authorities congratulate Mr. Saakashvili on his brilliant victory and are absolutely confident that it may open a new page in Armenian-Georgian relations,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamlet Gasparian, told RFE/RL.
Early returns from polling stations across Georgia showed Saakashvili winning as much as 95 percent of the vote. They did not differ much from the findings of an independent exit poll that gave the U.S.-educated lawyer 86 percent support.
Gasparian said the Sunday vote, called after the dramatic ouster of unpopular President Eduard Shevardnadze last November, was crucial for restoring political stability in Georgia which has been landlocked Armenia’s main conduit to the outside world for the past decade.
“The Georgian elections were very important for Armenia because they should contribute to Georgia’s stability and form a new government with which Armenia is ready to deepen bilateral relations,” Gasparian said.
Saakashvili and other leaders of the recent Georgian uprising, dubbed “revolution of roses,” have pledged to give a new boost to political and economic links between the two countries. Visiting Yerevan on December 29, Georgia’s chief government minister, Zurab Zhvania, said he is “very optimistic” about their future.
The remarks were echoed by Saakashvili in an interview with the private Armenia TV channel broadcast last week. He again accused Shevardnadze of paying insufficient attention to Georgian-Armenian ties and reaffirmed his pledge to “review” high transit fees levied by Tbilisi from cargoes transported to and from Armenia. The 36-year-old pro-Western leader also said that his country has “a lot to learn from Armenia” in establishing simultaneously good relations with the United States and Russia.
The Saakashvili administration is expected to deepen the pro-Western orientation of Georgian foreign policy while trying to improve the strained relations with Moscow.
(Photolur photo: Mikhail Saakashvili.)