Virk Party Urges Calm in Wake of Ethnic Tensions

AKHLAKALAK (A-Info)–The Virk political party in Javakhk issued an announcement Monday–calling on all residents of the predominantly Armenian-populated region of Akhalkalak to stay clear of ethnic violence–which has grown in recent weeks.

The Virk party warned that during recent weeks the activation of criminal elemen’s within the Akhaltskha region has grown. These elemen’s rise up when the political situation in the region shows signs of destabilization.

The announcement emphasized that the rise in these criminal activities was a direct result of efforts to resettle Meskheti Turks in southern Georgia. Instigation of Armenian-Georgian conflict and discord serves Turkey’s political interests in the region. "It is no secret that the Turkish government during its entire span of existence has sought to establish its influence in strategic areas such as Javakhk," warned the Virk party.

Within the announcement–the Virk party pointed out that while Turkey was unable to extend its influence on the region during Soviet time–but with the collapse of the Soviet Union–the ripe conditions have been created–with the assistance of the Georgian government–for Turkey to realize its strategic goals.

"Today–the Akhaltskha region has become a focal point in the interests of several foreign powers. The escalation of criminal activities in the region are the veiled manifestation of conflicts between the aforementioned interests," warned the Virk party. "The Virk party is concerned about the criminal clashes reported recently in Akhaltskha," the announcement expressed–adding that such clashes could directly hinder the centuries-old friendship between Armenia’s and Georgians.

"The Virk party calls on Armenia’s and Georgians of Akhaltskha to not fall prey to outside threats and maintain the strong neighborly relations between the two peoples. Today–the imperative for Armenian and Georgian interests call for the preservation of stability in the region," concluded the Virk party.

Meanwhile–the head of the first group of US military experts that arrived in Tbilisi last week downplayed allegations that his country was going to build a military base in Georgia.

"The US has no plans to set a military base in Georgia," head of the group Scott Tyne said.

He was quoted by Prime News agency as saying that the arrival of instructors and the antiterrorist training they are going to provide to Georgian special units were not linked to the regulation of the conflict between Georgia and its breakaway region of Abkhazia.

"The US supports President Shevardnadze’s position that this conflict should be regulated by peaceful means," Tyne said–adding that the US instructors–a total of 150-200–would not be interfering into the internal affairs of the country. Tyne said after concluding the training course they would return back to from where they had arrived.

On Friday–leaders of the Virk political party are planning to urge the population of Southern Georgia to not take part in upcoming local government elections scheduled for June 2–saying the election process is flawed and undemocratic.

During a telephone interview Friday from Akhalkalak–Virk party vice-president Davit Rstakyan told Prime News that taking part in the elections would be futile since the laws on local elections and the country’s election codes are undemocratic.

Rstakyan emphasized that provision in the election code–which stipulates that local government officials are not elected by voters–but rather are appointed by regional representatives was seen as the contentious part of the process.

The Virk leader explained that his party believes that local government and regional government officials must be elected by the people.

Whether the party will announce a "passive boycott" of the elections will be determined by the pre-election climate in Akhalkalak and Ninotsminda regions–adding that the situation in those regions is extremely complicated given the recent activation of Georgian intelligence in the region.

Rstakyan asserted that a group of candidates for local government have "sold out" to the "Georgian intelligence."

The party leader announced that Virk will not take part in the elections–by its members may use discretion in putting forth their candidacy.

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