The complicated situation plaguing the Georgian regions bordering Armenia, known as the Armenian-populated Samtskhe-Javakhk region, is being compounded as Georgian authorities are prohibiting farmers there to work, essentially claiming that the land on which they live is Georgian territory.
The focal point of this recent flare up is the border city of Bavra, whose residents were issued deeds by the Armenian State Committee on Real Estate from 1992 to 2004. But, because the Soviet demarcation of borders left a legal uncertainty, Georgia has intermittently annexed portions of that land and claimed it as its own by planting trees and vegetation and expanding its “forests.” This move is beeing seen as effectively seizing Armenian territory.
This has created confusion in the area, with Armenian border guards not allowing Armenian residents of Bavra to cross the border, in an effort to not enflame matters, while on the other hand, Georgian border guards are being granted permission to arrest the people who have been living and working there for decades.
Bavra community head Koriun Sumbulyan said that Georgian authorities have prevented the farmers to enter a 300-hectar lot on the “legally uncertain” area. This move has affected the economic well-being of the residents, who have appealed to the Armenian Foreign Ministry for assistance but have not received clear-cut answers.
It is estimated that if the current status quo is not challenged and Georgian authorities are allowed to continue this “restructuring of the border,” Georgia could advance within the current Armenian border to the tune of 400 meters, where the boundaries of the Bavra village end.
This revelation further enflames an already volatile situation for the majority-Armenian-populated region of Javakhk as a direct result of Tbilisi’s treatment of ethnic groups in Georgia. Javakhk Armenian community organizations have appealed to the central authorities and to the international community, thus far, to no avail.
The Armenian government has reassured that the proper procedures were in place to address the issue, yet Armenia, since its independence has not had a clear strategy or policy toward Javakhk.
Aside from the fallout from last summer’s war, which continues to have adverse effects on Armenia, Azeri and Turikic nations are increasing the population in the areas immediately bordering Armenia. In fact, on Wednesday, the Meskheti Community of Azerbaijan announced that it would be disbanding at the beginning of next year, because it has fulfilled its mission of populating the “displaced” Meskheti Turks in Georgia, “per Georgian law.”
The Saakashvili administration has not learned its lesson from last year’s war and continues to embroil its population in conflicts fraught with intimidation and violation of basic human rights. Unfortunately, this behavior is only encouraged—and Armenian lives further endangered—partially by the flawed policies of the US, which has allowed Georgian authorities to take liberties that are outside of democratic norms.
At the same time, the Armenian authorities’ unwillingness to engage in matters related to the threat facing the population of Javakhk, as well as Armenia’s border, exacerbates the situation further. It’s high time for a clear and concise policy toward Georgia, and more important a strategy on Javakhk.