By Emil Danielyan
Georgia’s ambassador in Yerevan discussed the tense political situation in his country in separate meetings with President Robert Kocharian and parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian on Thursday, official Armenian sources reported.
Kocharian’s office said the envoy, Nikoloz Nikolozishvili, requested an audience with the Armenian leader to speak about developments that followed the weekend the ouster of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. “Issues related to the present situation in Georgia and Armenian-Georgian relations were discussed during the meeting,” it said without elaborating.
The press service of the Armenian parliament issued a similarly worded statement. It also said Nikolozishvili assured Baghdasarian that the new regime in Tbilisi, which forced Shevardnadze into resignation with a strong popular backing, would like to deepen ties between the two neighboring countries.
“The Georgian ambassador passed on to the chairman of the National Assembly greetings from Georgia’s new leadership -- Nino Burjanadze, Mikhail Saakashvili and Zurab Zhvania -- and affirmed their readiness to develop and strengthen the friendly Armenian-Georgian relations,” the statement said. It cited the Armenian speaker as expressing hope that the three politicians, who led the post-election mass protests in Tbilisi, will succeed in “restoring domestic stability.”
Baghdasarian already discussed the situation in Georgia in a phone conversation with Burjanadze on Monday, the day after she took over as the country’s interim president pending an early presidential election scheduled for January 4. The popular Saakashvili, who was instrumental in the success of the bloodless uprising, is seen as the favorite to win the vote.
The need for “stability” in Georgia, vital for Armenia’s communication with the outside world, was emphasized by Kocharian on Tuesday. “We very much hope that the forthcoming elections will not raise more tensions in Georgian society,” he said.
One of the threats to that stability is a bitter feud between the pro-Western Saakashvili and Aslan Abashidze, the powerful ruler of the Black Sea region of Ajaria. Abashidze, who denounced Shevardnadze’s overthrow as a coup d’etat, hinted on Wednesday that he will defy the Tbilisi government if Saakashvili is elected president.
Abashidze, who has close ties with Russia, visited Armenia and Azerbaijan earlier this month in an apparent bid to drum up their support for the beleaguered Shevardnadze.
Another potential source of trouble for Georgia’s new leadership is the Armenian-populated Javakheti region where tensions have reportedly been simmering since the weekend “velvet revolution.” Some Tbilisi-linked local leaders who were at odds with the deposed president are now demanding the dismissal of the Shevardnadze-appointed chief executives of Javakheti’s Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda districts. They both are ethnic Armenians.
Leading the calls for their resignation is Melik Raisian, an Akhalkalaki-based businessman and member of the outgoing Georgian parliament who supports Saakashvili’s National Movement party. Speaking to RFE/RL, Raisian voiced his support for the latter’s presidential bid.
But other influential Javakheti Armenians argue that the power struggle in Tbilisi is largely irrelevant to the needs of the region’s impoverished population and should not necessarily entail changes in the local government. Among them is David Restakian, leader of the local Virk party which stands for greater autonomy of Javakheti.
Restakian is skeptical about Saakashvili’s ability to address the local Armenians’ socioeconomic and cultural grievances. He claimed on Wednesday that Saakashvili personally rejected Virk’s application for official registration when he was Georgia’s justice minister in 2001.