By Emil Danielyan
President Serzh Sarkisian called on Thursday a rare meeting of Armenia’s National Security Council to reiterate his government’s concerns about the Russian-Georgian military conflict and praise international efforts to resolve it.
Sarkisian also reaffirmed Yerevan’s stated neutrality in the week-long dispute that will likely have far-reaching ramifications for regional security. Still, he seemed to blame Georgia for the outbreak of fighting in South Ossetia that provoked a harsh Russian retaliation.
“It was pointed out that attempts to resolve existing problems by military means are fraught with tragic consequences,” the presidential press office cited him as saying in an apparent reference to Tbilisi’s botched attempt to restore Georgian control over the breakaway territory.
“The President once again stressed that the Russian Federation is a strategic ally of the Republic of Armenia and Georgia a friendly country, and that Armenia is therefore greatly interested in the conflict’s quick peaceful resolution,” the office said in a statement. Sarkisian welcomed in that regard “constructive initiatives aimed at establishing peace and stability in the region,” it said.
The statement added that the National Security Council discussed government efforts to ensure Armenia’s unfettered transport communication with the outside world via Georgian territory.
In a separate move, Sarkisian sent a letter to Georgia’s embattled President Mikheil Saakashvili in which he expressed his condolences to the families of Georgian victims of the fighting. “We wish to see a rapid restoration of peace and stability in neighboring Georgia, which is a key element of regional security,” he said, offering to send humanitarian aid to the war-stricken nation.
The Armenian leader made a similar offer in a phone conversation with Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday.
Sarkisian chaired the meeting of the security body comprising Armenia’s top state officials and wrote to Saakashvili immediately after his return from a week-long vacation in China, which was timed to coincide with the start of the Beijing Olympic Games. His refusal to cut short his stay in the Chinese capital despite the escalating fighting in Georgia prompted strong criticism from the Armenian opposition.
The main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) again condemned Sarkisian’s “dangerous inactivity” in a statement issued late Wednesday.