Georgia has No Legal Claim to Javakhk, Says Expert

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Present-day Georgia has no right to jurisdiction over Javakhk, since no agreement on a state border between Armenia and Georgia has been signed since the two countries last fought for control of Javakhk in 1918, said historian and international law expert Ara Papyan.

"The issue of borders in the South Caucasus should be resolved on the basis of international law, through the implementation of Woodrow Wilson’s proposed map of Armenia and the principles proposed by the League of Nations on February 24, 1920," he said.

"Decisions of the Communist Party’s Central Committee on Karabakh and Javakhk should not determine Armenia’s borders with Georgia and Azerbaijan,” said Papyan, adding that the current “leaders of Georgia view the Soviet-era as period of foreign occupation."

Papyan, who is Armenia’s former ambassador to Canada, explained that if the Versailles Peace conference decision on Armenia are questioned by any entity or individual then that would mean that the entire legal and political system of Europe and the Middle East were being questioned or doubted.

"A special commission dealing with the problem of Armenian borders said in its report that all territorial disputes should be considered by the League of Nations. Javakhk’s annexation to Georgia was a result of occupation regime," Papyan explaind.

The Armenian-Georgian war for Javakhk started on December 5, 1918 and was stopped after British interference on December 31. An agreement signed in Tbilisi in January 1919 stated that the northern part of Borchalinsky region was part of Georgia, while the southern segment was to be part of Armenia, while Lori (Northern Armenia) and Zangezur (Southern Armenia) were dedicated a "neutral zone" and fell under British control.

The issue of which state would have jurisdiction over Javakhk was again raised after the imposition of Soviet Rule in the early 1920s. The overwhelming majority of the province supported joining Armenia. A final decision was taken at the plenary session of the Caucasus Bureau and was forwarded for consideration to the Georgian Communist Party’s Central Committee, which decreed that "taking into account Akhalkalak’s [province containing Javakhk] political and economic ties with Tbilisi, the proposals of our Armenian comrades is unacceptable."

After the end of World War I, Armenia and Turkey signed the Treaty of Sevres which committed the two countries to Woodrow Wilson’s proposed borders with Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. According to the treaty, Armenia was awarded the Armenian-inhabited Ottoman and Transcaucasian regions, thus bringing its territory to 110,000 kilometers.

Based on Wilson’s decision, which has been notarized by the official state seal of the United States, Armenia’s jurisdiction spreads over the provinces of Van, Bitlis, Erzrum and Trabizon. This decision, echoed by the Treaty of Sevres, is still valid and has the power of law, mandatory for execution by the said country, according to Papyan.

During a conference last week, Papyan explained that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railroad, which will connect Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaija and isolate Armenia, is illegal in the context of international law.

Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia have launched a railway project between the three countries, building on links forged by gas and oil pipelines. At a railway station in the eastern Turkish border town of Kars (a historic Armenian town) last week, the presidents of the three countries held a ground-breaking ceremony for the 290 million lira ($241.06 million) Turkish section of the railway, which circumvents Armenia. The three are linked by the BP-led Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas line but trade links between Turkey and the Caucasus region are limited.

Both pipelines traverse historic Armenian territory and earn Turkey considerable shares in transit fees. The railroad will similarly pass through occupied Armenian territory.

According to Papyan, the Republic of Armenia, as the legal successor to the first Armenian Republic, can challenge the legality of the projects, as they traverse territory legally awarded to Armenia by the Treaty of Sevres in 1920.

He explained that the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railroad is illegal without Armenia’s participation, adding that Armenia has the right to demand transit fees for the sections of the railroad and pipeline that traverse its territories currently occupied by Turkey.

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