Saakashvili Speaks about Armenians of Javakhk

YEREVAN (Arminfo/RFE-RL)–Candidate for the Georgian presidency Mikhail Saakashvili–expressed concern that Armenia’s of the country’s Javakhk region do not take part in Georgia’s political and pubic life–saying it is vital to involve Javakhk Armenia’s in the current political and social processes in Georgia.

Talking about the region’s isolation–he compared it to the North Pole–and stressed–"The region has no proper roads–thus receives little–if no information. In fact–they feel themselves forgotten."

Saakashvili said that the government should encourage Javakhk Armenia’s to learn their mother tongue simultaneously with Georgian–in order to be involved in the process of state building. "Stability in Georgia highly depends on the extent of ethnic minorities’ involvement in the country’s life," he added.

Speaking about the Armenian army–Saakashvili said that it is better organized than the Soviet army–saying that the Georgian army should be as strong and well-organized.

On tariffs imposed on the Georgian railways–Saakashvili commented that the first thing the new Georgian government will do is to reduce the transit costs–and added–"they are currently high because of corruption." The 35-year-old popular lawyer–who was instrumental in the success of the "velvet revolution" in Tbilisi–acknowledged that transit fees levied by Georgia from Armenian cargos are disproportionately high–and promised to cut them considerably once in office. He blasted Shevardnadze for tolerating corrupt customs officials who routinely extort kickbacks from Armenian businessmen and therefore "don’t give a damn about Georgia’s state interests." More than 90 percent of landlocked Armenia’s external trade is carried out via Georgia.

Currently–the tariff for carrying cargos from Sadakhlo–a city that borders Armenian–to Poti (385 km) is $15.8 for a ton–twice as much for cargo transport from Poti to the Georgian-Azeri border (360 km). In both cases–however–the greater part of the route–from Poti to Tbilisi (300 km)–is the same. The one-day fee for use of the train ferry is $7,000-10,000.

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