Ivanishvili’s Armenian visit adds fuel to confrontation with Saakashvili

Ivanishvili’s Armenian visit adds fuel to confrontation with Saakashvili

Georgian president's reaction is clear; his efforts to please his Muslim neighbours are collapsing now.

The Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili could not but visit Yerevan, and not because of his preceding visit to Baku. The significance of Georgia's Armenian community in the country's life in far greater than that of the Azerbaijani one, and this has its reasons indeed. Saakashvili, on Turkey's advice, zealously supported the Azerbaijanis, and the Georgian Dream, now at power, is trying to minimize the Muslim influence in Tbilisi.

PanARMENIAN.Net - It's hard to say whether Ivanishvili will succeed in this or not, particularly given the fact that the president has still maintained his power and also enjoys Western support. The latter has decreased now, though. The concerns of Saakashvili's Western allies are clear; they do not want to see any swing to Russia at all. However, whether they wish it or not, the fluctuation is obvious, though both the Foreign Ministry and Ivanishvili claim the country's foreign policy course has seen no changes. Actually, this is not so. During his visit to Yerevan Bidzina Ivanishvili said: “I want to say that I have many Armenian friends both in Georgia and outside the country, in particular, in Russia. Prior to parliamentary elections I visited settlements inhabited by Armenians, and I got a hearty welcome. We understand each other well, and the outcome of the vote proved this. The government I head will do its best for Armenians to feel at home in our country, will make every effort to provide for their integration and will keep all the promises.”The topic of Armenia was also covered during the meeting with the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II. Ivanishvili told His Holiness that the teaching of the History of the Armenian People will be organized in Armenian schools of Georgia. As to the Armenian churches, the Georgian PM pledged he would personally ensure restoration of the churches, and all necessary actions will be taken immediately to preserve the Armenian churches in Georgia. With regard to release of the Armenian political activist in Javakhk Vahagn Chakhalyan, Ivanishvili said the issue is under consideration now.

Of course, the meeting in Yerevan touched upon the question of potential restoration of Abkhaz railway communication; still, this requires settlement of several issues. “I believe this is possible…You know, there are no problems in relations between Georgia and Armenia. Still, we have a very big problem in relations with Russia. The problems were huge, and unfortunately, they remain so up today. We strongly hope and try to restore and normalize the ties with Russia as soon as possible. The hardest and most challenging issues are those related to Georgia’s territorial integrity... This issue, perhaps, will not be settled soon,” Ivanishvili said adding that the problems can be settled quicker and easier if all parties demonstrate the will to do so. The Georgian side voiced its committment for this.

Reaction of Georgian president Saakashvili followed immediately. “Restoration of the railway communication from Georgia to Abkhazia does not meet the interests of Tbilisi. The statement Ivanishvili voiced in Armenia raises concerns, and it does not take Georgia’s strategic and geopolitical interests into account,” he declared. Saakashvili further complained that “the ties between Turkey and Georgia have faced serious complications.” “Many Turkish investments are suspended. Turkey is out key supporter in NATO integration; by creating problems in relations with Turkey we are losing the historic chance of accession to NATO. Azerbaijan is also Georgia’s strategic partner; hence proposing issues hastily, with no serious consultation with all our neighbours is unacceptable. I hope this was a rash statement; otherwise, we are facing a heavy statement,” the Georgian president said. Prior to visiting Baku, Ivanishvili spoke about the inexpediency of Kars-Akhalkalak-Baku railway project.

Georgian president's reaction is clear; his efforts to please his Muslim neighbours are collapsing now. In addition, there is the statement by Georgian Foreign Minister Maya Panjikidze on the conflicts in Caucasus that Azerbaijani media distorted and misinterpreted.

Actually, it's too early to speak about Georgian foreign policy's serious tendency towards Russia; the situation will become clear after the presidential elections. Still, neither Georgia nor its neighbours need the current diarchy; the civil war of 1990s is still fresh in people's mind.

Karine Ter-Sahakian
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