Ministry Denies Terrorism Charges Against Armenia

TBILISI (RFE/RL)–Georgia’s main national security agency strongly denied terrorism charges against Armenia on Tuesday–which have been attributed to it by a Georgian newspaper. The ministry of state security said reports that the Armenian government is harboring terrorist groups that are allegedly plotting to provoke an armed insurgency in Georgia’s Armenian-populated areas are a hoax.

"This does not correspond to reality," the ministry spokesman–Nikoloz Laliashvili–told RFE/RL by phone. "This is just an absurd lie that smacks of a provocation."

The "Georgian Times" weekly–citing a confidential "document" obtained from the ministry’s Anti-Terrorist Center–claimed last week that "official Yerevan provides several terrorist organizations with cutting-edge technology weapons–including missiles." It alleged that the weapons will be used for launching a secessionist movement in Georgia’s Javakhetia region mainly populated by ethnic Armenia’s.

"There is no such document. The anti-terrorist center is categorically denying its existence," Laliashvili said.

He said the newspaper report–which also draws on long-standing terrorism accusations leveled against Armenia by Azerbaijan–is part of "an information war" aimed at destabilizing the situation in Georgia. Chances of the outbreak of an ethnic conflict in Javakhetia are presently slim–the spokesman added.

"If there is an escalation of the situation there–it will be a very artificial one because local people have nothing against Georgian rule," Laliashvili explained. "I think we should not pay too much attention to such articles because their purpose is to heighten tensions."

The paper also alleged that President Robert Kocharian and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation party have close ties with "Armenian terrorists" that are allegedly planning to mount an armed rebellion in Javakhetia. The Georgian security ministry–the paper said–believes that "Armenian terrorism is a destabilizing factor not only to Azerbaijan–but it also threatens Georgia–Turkey–Western Europe and the United States."

In a follow-up story posted on its web site on Monday–the paper said some Armenian groups have ties with Ossama bin Laden–the chief fugitive suspect in last year’s terrorist attacks on the United States.

Meanwhile–Armenia on Tuesday shrugged off the allegations–with the foreign ministry spokeswoman–Dziunik Aghajanian–describing them as "science fiction." She said that unspecified "other forces" interested in the worsening of Georgian-Armenian relations are behind them.

"It is obvious to readers that the article was dictated by other forces. It should not be taken seriously," Aghajanian told RFE/RL.

"Georgian-Armenian relations do have a very friendly basis–and I don’t think that such articles have anything to do with the logic of those relations," she added.

Official Yerevan and Tbilisi have rarely been at odds over Javakhetia where wrenching living conditions and a widespread fear of neighboring Turkey have led to calls for greater local self-rule. The Armenian government has sought to restrain local Armenian groups campaigning for an autonomous status for Javakhetia. It has also expressed readiness to help the Georgian authorities address the impoverished region’s grave socioeconomic problems – the key source of periodical tensions there.

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