By Armen Zakarian
President Robert Kocharian’s planned visit to France has been postponed indefinitely, his office announced on Monday, citing a leg injury suffered by the Armenian leader during a weekend trip to Georgia.
Kocharian was scheduled to fly to Paris on Monday for a three-day working visit few details of which were made public. “New dates for the visit will be clarified through diplomatic channels,” the presidential press service said in a brief statement.
Armenian news agencies reported that Kocharian suffered a strained muscle in his leg in the ski resort of Gudauri in central Georgia where he held informal talks with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on Friday and Saturday. But there was no word on circumstances in which the reported injury occurred. Kocharian apparently did not require hospitalization.
Saakasvhili told reporters on Friday that the two leaders will not be able to ski because of a lack of time and a heavy snowfall. “I am very glad about my friend's visit, ” he said.
Observers have linked the unexpected visit to the situation in Georgia’s volatile Javakheti region predominantly populated by ethnic Armenians. They have staged protests in recent weeks against Tbilisi’s latest push for the closure of a Russian military base stationed in the area.
The secretary of Georgia’s National Security Council, Gela Bezhuashvili, admitted that the situation in Javakheti was high on the agenda of the Gudauri talks. Georgia’s Imedi television quoted him as saying that Tbilisi is satisfied with Yerevan’s position on the issue. Bezhuashvili said Saakashvili and Kocharian also discussed the resumption of eletrcity supplies from Armenia to Georgia.
Meanwhile, non-governmental organizations in Javakheti held a conference in the local town of Akhalkalaki over the weekend to discuss ways of facilitating the geographically and economically isolated region’s integration into the rest of Georgia. According to the local A-Info news agency, a resolution adopted by them demands greater protection of the cultural, linguistic and religious rights of the Javakheti Armenians. It accuses the Georgian authorities of continuing to pursue “discriminatory policies” against the local population.