TBILISI (Combined Sources)–During a meeting with more than 200 Georgian-Armenian community members in the capital’s Marriott Courtyard Hotel Wednesday Armenian President Sezh Sarkisian said issues related to Javakhk and its Armenian population would be resolved through close cooperation between the Armenian and Georgian governmen’s.
“Armenia, in cooperation with the Georgian authorities is ready to assist in the strengthening of the Georgian-Armenian community by assisting in the growth of its schools, press and community organizations. We should do everything so that Armenia’s in Georgia have a strong present and future and not just the successes of the past,” added Sarkisian.
The Armenian president stressed the need to reinvigorate the Armenian educational and cultural presence in Georgia, which historically was a hub of activity, in an effort to strengthen and maintain the Armenian identity.
He added that the newly-formed Diaspora Ministry will be a key force in enhancing relations and addressing issues of concern for all Diaspora communities.
Welcoming remarks were made by Primate of the Georgian Diocese Bishop Vazgen Mirzakhanyan, who said there were more than 300,000 Armenia’s living in Georgia, with 15 schools, as well as cultural centers, theaters and community organizations. He added that more than 30 Armenian churches had been reopened, with 11 clergy, explaining that the Diocese was moved to Tbilisi, with a sattelite center in Akhalkalak.
Bishop Mirzakhanyan also presented issues of concern to the Armenian commuity of Georgia, among them the return of the remaining Armenian churches to the Diocese, as well as the socio-economic and trasportation and communication issues facing the Armenia’s of Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartili. He added that the Javakhk Armenia’s also aspired to have Armenian as a the offiicial local language and wanted to open a Georgian-Armenian State University.
Prior to meeting with the Armenian community, Sarkisian met with the faculty and students of the Tbilisi State University, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate.
On Tuesday, Sarkisian met his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili and other Georgian leaders. Saakashvili was reported to stress the importance of Georgian-Armenian economic integration as they spoke at a late-night joint news conference in his residence.
"The Georgian-Armenian border should be and already is a border of friendship," Saakashvili said, according to the Georgian Caucasus Press news agency. "We have agreed to work more closely. I have instructed the ministers of finance and economy to visit Yerevan in order to ensure that border crossing procedures are as simple as possible."
"I think that recent developmen’s in Georgia have clearly demonstrated how important regional cooperation is, how everybody suffers from problems and conflicts and how important it is to solve all the issues quickly," Saakashvili said. "I am sure that the future of the Caucasus lies is in the creation of a single market,” he added.
Saakashvili also announced that he and Sarkisian agreed to set up a Georgian-Armenian consortium that will seek to attract foreign funding for the construction of a mountain pass in western Georgia which he said will significantly shorten travel between Armenia and the Georgian Black Sea cost.
Georgia’s Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti process at least 70 percent of cargos shipped to and from Armenia. The two supply routes were temporarily disrupted during Georgia’s brief but devastating war with Russia.
The Yerevan government has sought to maintain neutrality in the Russian-Georgian conflict, anxious not to upset Armenia’s most important neighbor and closest military ally. But it has implicitly blamed Georgia for the August 8 outbreak of fighting in South Ossetia that provoked a harsh Russian retaliation and escalated into an all-out war.
Talking to journalists in Tbilisi, Sarkisian appeared to repeat his thinly veiled criticism of the Georgian government’s ill-fated attempt to win back South Ossetia. “I believe that it is impossible to resolve existing problems through military intervention,” the Regnum news agency quoted him as saying. “The Caucasus is an object of big [foreign] interests and we must do our best to use those interests to the benefit of our peoples.”
“We must review our relationship and do everything to again improve them. I am sure that we will really be useful to each other,” added the Armenian leader.
Saakashvili signaled his satisfaction with Yerevan’s stance on the Russian-Georgian dispute when he thanked Sarkisian for “expressing support for Georgia’s territorial integrity.” He went on to give Sarkisian a Medal of Honor, a top Georgian state award.