Official Yerevan rounded on Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze on Wednesday for reportedly describing Armenia’s latest defense agreement with Russia as a threat to regional security.
Vashadze was quoted by the Azerbaijani APA news agency as saying on Tuesday that the deal extending Russia’s lease on a military base in Armenia until 2044 and upgrading its mission will impede “stability, security and cooperation” in the South Caucasus.
“The sole goal of the Russian military base is to heighten tension in the region. The extension of the term of that base’s deployment in Armenia by 24 years and the change in its functions poses a big threat to the region,” he said, according to APA.
Vashadze’s reported remarks were at odds with official Tbilisi’s initial reaction to the Russian-Armenian pact that was voiced by Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalanadze. She said late last month that Yerevan remains “conscious of threats to Georgia emanating from Russia.” “We have no reason to suspect that Armenia is calling regional security into question in any way,” added Kalanadze.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. The ministry spokeswoman did not respond to phone calls throughout the day.
Commenting on the statement attributed to Vashadze, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan said, “We do not share that view.” He suggested at the same time that it was distorted by the government-controlled Azerbaijani media outlet.
“In any case, no foreign official has the right to meddle in our affairs and make comments on our security issues,” Balayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. He added that Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian will telephone Vashadze to discuss the matter later in the day.
Nalbandian’s office reported no such phone conversation as of 9 p.m. local time.
Vashadze met with Armenia’s ambassador in Tbilisi, Hrach Silvanian, on August 31, less then two weeks after the signing of the Russian-Armenian accord. His press office said they spoke about the “the need to further strengthen ties traditionally existing between the two countries and the importance of carrying out bilateral visits.”