Georgian Parliament Not to Discuss Genocide Issue, Says Speaker

YEREVAN (ArmRadio)–The speaker of Georgia’s Parliament, David Bakradz, on Tuesday told reporters at the Dzidzernagapert Genocide Memorial that his country’s legislature would not be discussing the issue of the Armenian Genocide any time soon.

Georgia, with its lucrative pipeline and transit ties with Turkey and Azerbaijan, does not officially recognize the Armenian Genocide and its government and parliament shy away from using the term to describe the events.

“It’s a sensitive topic for the Georgian people, as well,” Bakradze said. “I think that from the moral viewpoint, the visit of the Georgian delegation to the Genocide Museum and the impressions we got here clearly demonstrate our attitude towards the issue.”

He said that it was the responsibility of politicians to prevent history from repeating itself and “to avoid ethnic cleansing and genocides.”

Hevisited the Dzidzernagapert Genocide Memorial complex as part of a two-day visit to Armenia. He laid a wreath at the memorial to the victims of the Genocide and signed the memorial book at the Genocide museum.

Bakradze spoke to a session of the Armenian National Assembly earlier in the day, advocating deeper political and economic ties between the two countries.

“Armenia and Georgia are historical staunch allies and sister republics, and the peoples of these two countries are connected not only with the past, but, I am confident, with the hopeful future as well,” David Bakradze said, speaking to the Armenian parliament. “I am happy to see that relations between both countries have progressed in the past couple of years.”

Despite his bright forecasts, relations between the two countries have been tense as of late with the Georgian government increasingly encroaching on the rights of its Armenian minority.

Last fall Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan was forced to intervene when Georgian authorities were bulldozing the Norashen Armenian church in Tbilisi. Norashen, a 5th century Armenian Church, has long been the target of a wide reaching campaign by the Georgian Orthodox Church to take over Armenian Church holdings.

In January Georgian Interior Ministry forces ambushed and arrested two Javakhk activists and charged them with organizing illegal militant groups and spying.

But Bakradze’s speech avoided any talk of the worsening socioeconomic conditions of Georgia’s large Armenian minority.

He, instead, described relations between the two countries as positive and growing. He said he hoped that both countries would succeed in “reaching a serious progress in the relations of two parliamen’s,” adding that interparliamentary relations would support “executive powers in the settlement of many important issues.”

He pointed to tourism as an example of another sign of progress in relations. “There are more and more Armenia’s spending their vacation in the Ajarian and Gudauri regions of Georgia,” he said. “We are ready to take steps to enhance the mentioned progress to attract more tourists and investors and hope that Georgian tourists and investors will also show interest.”

Bakadzev emphasized the same points during his talks with Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan that same day.

When asked by Sargsyan how the Georgian government was going about solving the Norashen crisis, Bakadzev said that dialogue and consensus between the Armenian and Georgian Churches was very important to his country.

“Georgia is interested in solving the [Norashen] issue without politicizing it,” he said, adding that he was confident that Armenia’shared the same position.

Bakadzev noted that Tbilisi is ready to do the “utmost to support the establishment of efficient working relations between the two parliamen’s both on the level of friendly group and commissions of the corresponding sphere.”

“We want Armenian-Georgian economic and political relations to grow and expand year by year,” he told Sargsyan. “What is good for Armenia’s economy is good for Georgia, and is simultaneously profitable with regard to regional cooperation.”

The two also discussed the construction of a new highway in southern Georgia that would significantly shorten travel between Armenia and the Georgian Black Sea coast. The project is being financed by the Asian Development Bank. The Georgian ports of Batumi and Poti process at least 70 percent of cargos shipped to and from Armenia.

The two also underscored the need to accelerate the establishment of a joint customs-house to facilitate the import and export of goods into and out of a country. The project has already been approved by both sides.

The two also discussed the US Millennium Challenge Program, which has provided both Georgia and Armenia with hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for rural development and infrastructure revival projects. In 2006 the Millennium Challenge Corporation started a major road renovation project in Javakhk.

The success of these economic programs, he said, is dependent on regional peace and stability. “In this respect, cooperation between Georgia and Armenia plays a vital role,” Bakradze noted.

The two states must create “security guarantees” that will allow them to protect their independence and build democratic civil society, he added. “Our chief task is to protect our states from external aggression and, unfortunately, the resolution of conflicts is the issue which exists in Caucasus and which impedes the progressive development of our countries.”

Bakradze was referring to the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and his own country’s conflict with Armenia’s ally, Russia, over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in August.

“State and regional security interests require Georgia and Armenia to take into account mutual interests and maintain friendly ties regardless of what kind of relations we have with neighboring and non-neighboring countries,” he said, talking about Armenia’s strong ties with Russia and Georgia’s economic and political ties with Turkey and Azerbaijan.

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