Armenian Delegation Visits Akhalkalak

AKHALKALAK–Georgia (Armenpress)–A governmental delegation from Armenia arrived in the mostly Armenian-populated region of Akhalkalak Friday–headed by chief adviser to Armenia’s prime minister Stepan Markarian and the chief of staff of Armenia’s Constitutional Court Aroushan Hakobian.

This visit to Javakhk is a fact finding mission. The delegation met with regional governor Teymouraz Mosiashvili. A portion of that meeting was held behind closed doors.

Accompanying the delegation during the visit is Armenia’s ambassador to Georgia Georgi Khosroyev.

The delegation also met with the areas Armenian community.

Military Departmen’s of Armenia–Georgia Propose Cooperation

Prospects of cooperation between the defense departmen’s of Armenia and Georgia were discussed during the April 4 meeting of Armenian Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian and Chief of the General Staff of Georgia’s Armed Forces Lieutenant-General Johnny Pirtskhalashvili–who is on a three-day visit in Armenia.

According to the Armenian Defense Ministry’s Propaganda Department–the sides exchanged views regarding problems of Armenian-Georgian relations–security in the region and military-political developmen’s. They stressed the importance of versatile cooperation between the two countries for establishing balance and stability in the region.

The meeting was also attended by Georgia’s Ambassador to Armenia Nikoloz Nikolozishvili and the Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces Lieutenant-General Mikael Haroutiunian.

Defense Minister Sarkisian emphasized that stability in Georgia is highly important for Armenia. At a news conference on Thursday devoted to the results of the closed Parliamentary hearings on a wide range of foreign policy issues–Sarkisian said the Armenian Defense Ministry is seeking to establish a serious cooperation with the Defense Ministry of Georgia in its policy. Sarkisian said the decision to start a military cooperation between Armenia and Georgia was made last year. "It is surprising that having worked in independent countries for more than 10 years now–we have not cooperated in the military sphere," he said.

As regards the presence of American military in Georgia–Sarkisian agreed with the opinion of the Armenian Foreign Minister–stating "it does not bother Armenia in its present form." He said that the further presence of American military in Georgia and its consequences are highly important for Armenia.

Sarkisian added that stability in Abkhazia is also important for Armenia. He said Armenia welcomes the position of Georgian authorities–according to which–the Abkhazian conflict will be settled through negotiations. The minister noted that Armenia is concerned about Abkhazia’s stability because Armenia has only one railroad route connecting it with other countries that passes through the territory of Abkhazia. A large Armenian community also lives in Abkhazia and Armenia is not interested in its involvement in military actions. Sarkisian also said military operations in the territory of the Transcaucasus may provoke hostilities in other parts of the Caucasus–in particular–in Nagorno Karabakh.

"Good-neighborly relations with fraternal Georgia are very important for us," Sarkisian stated.

On Friday–April 5–Georgia’s Lieutenant-General Johnny Pirtskhalaishvili and Colonel-General Mikael Haroutiunian signed a protocol on activities of the joint working group of the two countries’ military departmen’s. The goal of the working group is to develop proposals regarding military cooperation between the two countries to be submitted to the defense ministers of the two countries. A protocol about the working visit of the Georgian delegation to Armenia was also signed.

According to Colonel-General Haroutiunian–the two neighboring countries must cooperate in the military sphere–as it is done in other spheres. Agreemen’s on military cooperation were reached during the official visit of Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian to Tbilisi in October 2001. A return visit of Georgia’s Defense Minister to Armenia is being planned.

Lieutenant-General Pirtskhalaishvili also made a statement in Yerevan on Friday that Georgia is not going to carry out military operations in the Pankis gorge. He mentioned that Georgia faces the problem of about 7,000 Chechen refugees in this gorge. According to him–Georgia expressed good will permitting them to go to their country last September. Pirtskhalaishvili mentioned that it isn’t a secret that they came from Russia–the border of which with Georgia is protected by Russian frontier guards.

Within the framework of the working visit–Chief of the General Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces and the Defense Minster of Armenia discussed issues of bilateral military cooperation–regional security–and the combination of efforts in creating an international system battling terrorism.

The Georgian military official expressed his confidence that the stronger Armenia is–the stronger Georgia will be and that good-neighborly relations between the countries "should not cause anyone to envy."

Georgian Speaker Nino Burjanadze told the reporters that during a telephone conversation with her Armenian counterpart Armen Khachatrian–she was told that the Armenian Parliament discussed the issue of Georgian-American military cooperation. She was also told that the majority of Armenian law makers respect Georgia’s choice to ensure its security.

According to her–the Armenian National Assembly discussed issues concerning Armenia’s security in the context of Caucasian developmen’s.

Nino Burjanadze said that discussion of such issues is a sovereign right of each country’s parliament–so the concern of Georgian deputies over the session of Armenian Parliament is groundless. She completely excluded the possibility of approval of a decision directed against Georgia by the Armenian National Assembly. According to her–Armenia’s orientation to Russia and Azerbaijan’s and Georgia’s orientation to western countries will not bring aggravation to Armenian-Georgian relations.

Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Margarian–while meeting with the delegation headed by Lieutenant-General Jhonny Pirtskhalaishvili on April 5–said the Armenian government keeps the issue of the realization of the provisions of the treaty "On Friendship–Mutual Security and Cooperation," signed between the presidents of Georgia and Armenia last year in the center of its attention.

"Armenia is interested in good-neighborly relations with all neighboring countries. We want to see Georgia a stable–economically developed and strong country," stressed the prime minister.

Prime Minister Margarian–mentioning that there is enough potential to be used in economic–political and military cooperation–stressed the necessity of the resolution of problems first by their own forces–as the most interested sides in this matter. From this point of view–the minister named stability in the region as a precondition for the development of each country in the region.

According to the Armenian government’s Information and Public Relations Department–the prime minister worried about the fates of Armenia’s in Georgia–especially in Javakhk (Samtskhe-Javakheti region) and Abkhazia–where a great number of Armenia’s live. He expressed hope that the Georgian authorities will not permit political forces interested in the destabilization of the situation and the establishment of new seats of tension to fulfill their aspirations–and that radical measures will be undertaken if necessary.

Lieutenant-General Pirtskhlaishvili gave an assurance that his country is interested in the establishment of stability to such an extent and takes into consideration the interests of the Armenian population. He also stressed the necessity of further strengthening relations between the neighbors.

A document on further activities of the working groups at defense ministries of Georgia and Armenia was also signed on April 5 by the Armenian and Georgian defense ministries in Yerevan. It encompasses prospects for further cooperation in the military sector. Another document was signed on the results of Georgia’s chief of staff of armed forces.

General-Colonel Michael Harutyunian said that issues concerning the Armenian-Georgian military cooperation–regional security–struggle against terrorism–as well as arrangemen’s made within the framework of four Caucasus countries security council–were discussed during Pirtskhalayshvili’s visit.

While referring to the Armenian-Georgian cooperation–Harutyunian said that it is not directed against any other country. "We don’t choose neighbors–we are friendly nations and should co-operate in this sector as well as in other sectors," he said.

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