By Ruben Meloyan
Georgia’s Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze met with President Serzh Sarkisian and his Armenian counterpart Eduard Nalbandian during a two-day official visit to Yerevan than began on Friday.
The talks touched upon a wide range of issues of interest to the two neighboring states, including bilateral economic relations and the broader situation in the South Caucasus. According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, they are part of an “active and regular Georgian-Armenian political dialogue” that can serve as a basis for “further development of mutually beneficial relations.”
A ministry statement said Vashadze and Nalbandian discussed the implementation of mostly economic agreements reached by the Armenian and Georgian presidents during Sarkisian’s October visit to Tbilisi. It said they also spoke about Armenia’s and Georgia’s inclusion in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program.
The statement said the two ministers further discussed “a number of issues preoccupying Georgia’s Armenian community.” That included the tense situation in Georgia’s Armenian-populated Javakheti region.
“There is no problem of Javakheti, there is a socioeconomic problem in Javakheti, as well as other regions of Georgia,” Vashadze said at an ensuing news conference with Nalbandian. He insisted that the administration of President Mikheil Saakashvili has done a lot to alleviate the plight of the impoverished region’s population in recent years.
“If somebody in Armenia thinks that people are better off in [Georgia’s second largest city of] Kutaisi than in Samtskhe-Javakheti, then they are deeply deluded,” Vashadze said. “I am ready to pay for your trip and take you [to Georgia] and show that.”
“The problem is that the integration of Georgian Armenians into Georgia’s public life is not going on at a pace desired by Georgia’s Armenian community and government,” he added.
In Nalbandian’s words, the situation in Javakheti is the subject of “sincere discussions” between Tbilisi and Yerevan. “There are no problems that the authorities in Armenia and Georgia can not solve jointly,” he said.
Vashadze denied in that regard any political motives behind the recent controversial arrest of two Armenian activists in the regional capital Akhaltsikhe on espionage charges. “Their rights are protected,” he said. “Lawyers are working for them.”
Nalbandian said the Armenian government is monitoring the high-profile case and has already received relevant explanations from the Georgian side. “The matter is being investigated and as Mr. Vashadze said, things will probably clear up after the investigation is over,” he said.