Georgia’s Ivanishvili Says ‘Ball in My Court’ on Javakhk

President Sarkisian greets Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili

YEREVAN—Georgia’s Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is on an official visit to Armenia, said the “ball is now in my court,” to fulfill campaign promises regarding the improvement of conditions for the Armenian population of Javakhk, reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Armenian Service on Thursday.

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Ivanishvili pledged to do his best to improve the situation in Georgia’s Javakhki region mainly populated by Armenians. Most of them voted for his Georgian Dream alliance in the October elections.

“The Georgian opposition has never received so many ethnic Armenian votes before,” said Ivanishvili. “I want to again thank [Javakhk Armenians.] I gave them many promises. I won’t list those promises now. But I guarantee that the ball is now in my court.”

During his first visit to Armenia since becoming Georgia’s prime minister Ivanishvili also pledged to seek the restoration of Georgia’s railway communication with Russia, vital for Armenia, and help make Georgian-Armenian relations “ideal” during his first official visit to Yerevan on Thursday.

He also announced an ambitious initiative to end a long-running dispute between the government-backed Armenian and Georgian churches after holding talks with President Serzh Sarkisian and Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan.

“I think Armenian-Georgian relations can today be considered normal and even good,” Ivanishvili told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in an exclusive interview. “We spoke about their future with your president and prime minister. I think we agreed that our centuries-old relations must become ideal and exemplary.

“This is what I personally and our new government are aiming for, and I felt the same desire by the Armenian government.”

Ivanishvili, who swept to power after defeating Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s party in last October’s parliamentary elections, was particularly satisfied with his “very warm” meeting with Tigran Sargsyan. “We spoke in such an atmosphere as if we have known each other since childhood,” he told a joint news conference with his Armenian counterpart.

Ivanishvili spoke of “interesting decisions” adopted by them. “There are a few remaining issues that need further discussion, but I am confident that we will agree on them as well,” he said.

One of the key issues on the agenda was Ivanishvili’s post-election calls for the reopening of the railway linking Georgia to Russia via its breakaway region of Abkhazia. The railway, which used to serve as a lifeline road for landlocked Armenia, has been closed since the outbreak of a bloody war in Abkhazia in 1992. Successive Armenian governments have for years held out hope for its re-launch.

“I think that [the railway] will definitely be opened,” Ivanishvili told RFE/RL’s Armenian service later in the day. “We have discussed this issue today for two or three times. On our side, there is full readiness [to have it reopened.]”

“I feel that Russia is showing understanding for this issue. There are positive signals from our Abkhaz brothers,” he said.

Ivanishvili explained that renewed rail communication between Georgia and Russia would be in line with his government’s strategy of facilitating the eventual resolution of the conflicts over Abkhazia and South Ossetia through confidence-building measures.

The billionaire businessman-turned-politician, who made his huge fortune in Russia in the 1990s, has advocated a softer Georgian line on Moscow ever since entering the political arena in late 2011. Georgia and Russia severed diplomatic relations after fighting a brief but bitter war in 2008.

Prime Minister Sargsyan said he reaffirmed Yerevan’s strong interest in the reopening of the Abkhaz railway during the talks with his Georgian counterpart. “We stressed that we will make every effort to have the railway operate efficiently,” he told reporters. “We are interested in a quick solution to that issue and will adopt a proactive stance in its settlement.”

Most of the freight shipments to and from Armenia are currently carried out through the Georgian Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti. The Russian-Georgian rail link would make some of those deliveries cheaper and thus shore up the struggling Armenian economy.

According to Ivanishvili, Sarkisian also called for the creation of a Georgian-Armenian “common market.” He said he likes idea.

In what was described as a further step towards bilateral economic integration, the two premiers presided over the signing of a Georgian-Armenian agreement on joint customs administration at the border between the two neighboring states. Yerevan had tentatively agreed on the joint use of the border checkpoints with Georgia’s previous cabinet controlled by Saakashvili.

Ivanishvili also discussed in Yerevan the issue of worship sites claimed by the Armenian Apostolic and Georgian Orthodox Churches. The unresolved dispute centers on ownership of several formerly Armenian churches in Tbilisi as well as abandoned medieval monasteries in Armenia’s Lori province bordering Georgia. The supreme heads of the two churches failed to reach any agreements during almost one week of negotiations held in June 2011.

Ivanishvili said he proposed that his private charity finance the renovation of all disputed churches “in both countries” pending a joint Georgian-Armenian study of their origin. “We could also do archaeological work there, which I’m also ready to finance through my fund,” he said.

“I think this initiative was received well by the [Armenian] president and the prime minister,” added Ivanishvili. “I think that we will set up a bilateral commission in a matter of days, start the process of restoration of these monuments and clarify their origin.”

Ivanishvili discussed the matter at a separate meeting with Catholicos Karekin II at the Etchmiadzin headquarters of the Armenian Church. The Catholicos’ office said the Armenian pontiff expressed hope for its “proper resolution.”


Discussion Policy

Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Though you are fully responsible for the content you post, comments that include profanity, personal attacks or other inappropriate material will not be permitted. Asbarez reserves the right to block users who violate any of our posting standards and policies.


  1. GB said:

    Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, have some understanding that Muslim Turks, may destroy Christian way of life in Georgia!!

    • Hrant K. said:

      Welcome to the world of surprises and opportunities and lucky possibilities, dear hagop!

  2. Raffi Bairamian said:

    Let us wait and see if the new prime minister of Georgia will hold to his promise in giving Georgian Armenians and the Armenian Church in Georgia all their rights.

    • Hrant K. said:

      Raffi, at least Mr Ivanishvili is trying and willing to open the railroad line to Russia, and not kissing
      azeris’ and turks’ asses, like his predecessors have been doin’! It’s a pretty bold, daring, friendly, neighbourly and frank good start !!! When the Georgians and Armenians have befriended each
      other throughout history (of course with the the Northern blessing), turks and nonfriendly neighbours
      have always had their tails between their legs! I agree with you though, that he should try much harder
      in order to translate his words into actions!!!

  3. Kevork said:

    As history shows, DON’T TRUST ANY GEORGIAN POLITICIAN! If the ball is in your court Mr Ivanishvili, you’d better make that goal, or be ready to give up Javakhk as well.

  4. Stephen T. Dulgarian said:

    We will praise Georgia’s Prime Minister Ivanishvili if his pledges help our Javakh Armenians whom the Georgian Government has been trying to disperse the Armenian Population and bring back the Meskhi Turks. Georgian’s must wake and work with the Armenian People. We gave them their Alphabet and they were the 2nd Nation to adopt Christianity after the Armenians. If they continue to back up the Turks & Azeri’s, then eventually they too will be swollowed up by Moslem Turks in time. I believe up to 30 to 40% of Georgia is now Moslem. So I hope this is a wake up call for Georgia.


      @ Stephen

      Do you believe the Georgian people will change their mind??? I don´t think so. Turkey hast started to invest in Georgia and to take the country. The Turks started to turkify the Muslims in Adjara and in Georgia central!!! The Georgians must change their politics or they will be the end of the georgians.