YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A visiting senior Georgian official briefed Armenia’s leaders on Wednesday–about his government’s plans to improve harsh living conditions–the main destabilizing factor in Georgia’s Armenian-populated Javakhk region.
Teymuraz Mosiashvili–who is the governor of the larger Samtskhe-Javakhk region–said after talks with President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Antranik Markarian that Tbilisi has finalized a program of socio-economic development of the restive area bordering Armenia. He said its main provisions were approved by President Eduard Shevardnadze earlier this month.
However–Mosiashvili declined to specify the total amount of funds that the cash-strapped Georgian government plans to spend on Javakhk next year. He said only that the program aims to facilitate the revival of stagnant local industries–improve public utilities and rebuild roads and other infrastructure.
Mosiashvili agreed that the dire economic situation is the key reason that local Armenia’s are opposed to the closure of a Russian military base in Javakhk–their largest employer. Several thousand of them reportedly rallied in the regional town of Akhalkalaki earlier this month to reaffirm their opposition to the withdrawal of Russian troops.
Meeting with the local governor–Markarian again urged the authorities in Tbilisi to do more to ease hardship in the region’s Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda regions mainly populated by ethnic Armenia’s. He reaffirmed Yerevan’s readiness to contribute to the effort financially. Mosiashvili told a news conference that Georgia would welcome such assistance.
Markarian also suggested Georgia consider opening an Armenian consulate in Akhalkalaki allowing Yerevan to "watch the implementation of the joint program more closely."
"I can not comment on this idea because it is beyond my area of responsibility," Mosiashvili told reporters afterwards.
Base Closure Date Undecided
YEREVAN (PanARMENIAN.Net)–Meeting with reporters–Mosiashvili said that the date for the withdrawal of the Russian military base from the Akhalkalaki region of Georgia has not been decided: "The time-frame for the possible withdrawal/closure of the base is too vague–anywhere from 3 to 20 years," He said that closing the base is hardly possible in the near future considering the task at hand is to provide necessary conditions so that the process of withdrawal is as smooth for the local population as possible.
"It is one of the serious problems–which we intend to solve together with Armenia," he said.
Georgian Deputy Makes Chauvinistic Statement
YEREVAN (Yerkir)–The Georgian parliament reviewed on Monday the law on state language. According to Van Baiburd–an ethnic Armenian deputy in the Georgian Parliament–the discussion was quite heated.
Baiburd pointed out that Deputy Guram Sharadze and his supporters have adopted an extreme nationalistic stance tied to this issue–insisting Georgian serve as the official language in all regions of Georgia.
According to Baiburd–if the law is adopted–it will frustrate the Armenia’s of Javakhk and Azeris of Kvemo Kartli.
"The official language in these regions predominantly populated by Armenia’s and Azeris should be their native languages and if needed–official documentation could be translated into Georgian," he said.
Baiburd expressed confidence–however–that the majority of parliament will respect the rights of minorities.