ASBAREZ Online [03-15-2004]


1) Georgia Blockades Ajaria, Presents Ultimatum
2) Armenian Political Parties Call for Stability in Georgia
3) Tessa Hoffman Questions Competence of UK Ambassador Abbott-Watt
4) Soccer-Stadium Clash Leads to Rioting In Syria; 14 Die
5) Kocharian Congratulates Reelected Putin

1) Georgia Blockades Ajaria, Presents Ultimatum

POTI (AFP/Interfax)–Georgia has imposed an economic blockade on its
region of Ajaria in a bid to make leader Aslan Abashidze recognize the central
government’s authority.
The move was the latest step in an escalating armed standoff, sparked early
Sunday when armed supporters of Abashidze barred Georgian President Mikhail
Saakashvili from entering the coastal territory.
Tbilisi says unauthorized armed groups are operating on the territory of the
region on the Black Sea coast, and has vowed to bring Ajaria back under
control, in time for March 28 parliamentary elections.
Abashidze charges that Georgia’s new leadership will use the election to oust
him from power.
Tensions heightened as Russia, which has a military base on Ajarian
warned Georgia of “grave and unpredictable consequences” if Ajaria comes under
Georgian ministers said Monday they had no plans to send the military into
Ajaria, but there were still fears the crisis could erupt into armed conflict,
with Ajaria’s leader warning that Tbilisi’s stance was leading the country
toward bloodshed.
Abashidze confirmed that a state of emergency has been declared in the
autonomous republic, and a curfew introduced.
Abashidze avoided giving a direct answer to questions about the
possibility of
mobilizing the republic’s population, but said: “I am not hiding the fact that
the entire republic is ready to defend its region.”
The situation in the nation has been stable for 13 days, but the Georgian
president’s actions may disrupt the balance, Abashidze said. “One’s ambitions
should not be above the interests of the state,” he said.
The local opposition–supporters of Saakashvili–has been banned from holding
pre-election rallies in Batumi, Abashidze said.
“We have warned them and will take the corresponding measures. If they
try, it
will end badly,” he said
Saakashvili gave Abashidze a deadline of Monday evening to recognize the
government’s authority over his region or face unspecified consequences.
Starting on Monday morning, Saakashvili ordered the closure of Ajaria’s Black
Sea port, and its border with Turkey, and cut-off the region’s road and rail
links with the rest of Georgia.
He added that criminal charges would be brought against Ajaria’s leaders, and
their bank accounts frozen.
“We are dealing. . . with an attempt to stage a mutiny against Georgia, and
this is an armed mutiny,” Saakashvili told reporters from his crisis center in
Poti, a coastal town just north of Ajaria.
“Georgia is facing a clear threat of disintegration…. No major cargo will
enter or leave (Monday) from the territory of Ajaria.”
But the 36-year-old leader said he still favored a peaceful resolution of the
crisis, adding that “not all the resources for dialogue have been exhausted.”
The blockade is likely to deal a devastating blow to Ajaria’s economy, which
depends on income from the transit of goods across its territory.

2) Armenian Political Parties Call for Stability in Georgia

YEREVAN (Yerkir)–Concerned over recent political tensions in the autonomous
region of Ajaria, Georgia, representatives of Armenia’s political parties
called for a peaceful dialogue between Georgia’s central authorities and
Adjaria’s leaders in resolving the brewing conflict.
National Assembly Vice-speaker and Armenian Revolutionary Federation leader
Vahan Hovhannisian, said that although the problem is an internal issue, any
clash in the region is undesirable. Noting that Armenia’s biggest concern is
Georgia’s stability, Hovhannisian expressed worry about the country’s ethnic
Armenians: “The roads connecting central Georgia with Adjaria go through
Armenian-populated regions; clashes could, therefore, affect Armenian

3) Tessa Hoffman Questions Competence of UK Ambassador Abbott-Watt

International Law expert, historian, and chairman of Germany’s 1915 Genocide
Recognition Commission, Dr. Tessa Hofmann, responded to UK Ambassador to
Armenia Thorda Abbott-Watt’s recent statement categorically denying the
Armenian Genocide.
The Azg newspaper reported that Ambassador Abbott-Watt, during a January 20
press conference in Armenia, stated: “Great Britain accepts that the events of
1915 were mass killings [of the Armenian population], the responsible for
are the Turks. I see no problem calling it brutality. It shouldn’t have taken
place even in the course of war. But, I do not think that recognizing the
events as genocide would be of much use.”
In the following March 11 letter to UK Secretary of State for Foreign and
Commonwealth Affairs Jack Straw, Hofmann condemns the Ambassador’s comments
questions Abbot-Watt’s competence to serve as UK Ambassador to Armenia.
“It has been brought to our attention that the UK Ambassador to the Republic
of Armenia, Mrs. Thorda Abbott-Watt has repeatedly denied the genocide of 1.5
million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during the years 1915-16.
Mrs. Abbott Watt mentioned `mass killings` and `brutality,` but ignored that
half of the victims died during death marches or exile in desert areas from
starvation, exhaustion, and epidemics. The UN Convention on Genocide describes
such circumstances as `deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life
calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.’ (Art.
2, c)
Mrs. Abbott Watt is wrong in publicly doubting that the case of the Armenian
Genocide did not correspond with the definition and categories of the UN
Genocide Convention. She may not know that the author of this convention, Mr.
Raphael Lemkin, drafted it on the empirical base of both the Armenian and the
Jewish Genocide as case studies during WW1 and WW2.
Mrs. Abbott Watt may also be ignorant of the joint statement of May 27, 1915,
in which the governments of Britain, France, and Russia warned the Ottoman
government to hold its members personally responsible for the crimes committed
on the Armenian citizens of the Ottoman Empire. In this statement, the
of the Armenian population were categorized, under the terms of contemporary
law, as a crime against humanity and civilization.
Mrs. Abbott Watt is obviously not qualified as a scholar of genocide
Otherwise, she would know that the denial of genocide is considered as an
integral part of the crime and its final stage. Sadly, Mrs. Abbott Watt
contributes to the crime of denial, thus keeping painfully alive the trauma of
the Armenian nation and upsetting all others, who are aware of the
of genocide denial.
As an international NGO, which is focusing on the recognition of denied
genocide crimes, we urge you to re-consider whether it is advisable that Mrs.
Abbott Watt, who is ignorant of basic facts of legal history and international
relations and who makes repeated incompetent and offensive statements, may
continue her diplomatic career in a country where half of the population
descends from survivors of genocide.”

4) Soccer-Stadium Clash Leads to Rioting In Syria; 14 Die

DAMASCUS (Reuters)–About 14 people have died in the northeast Syrian city of
Kameshli in rioting sparked by fighting at a soccer match on Friday.
As panicked fans tried to escape, a stampede resulted, injuring and killing
the victims, witnesses said.
State-run Syrian Radio reported the deaths as it began live coverage of the
match, which was quickly called off.
One witness said visiting fans also shouted slogans that offended Syrian
Kurdish supporters of Kameshli, a town near the Iraqi border that has a large
Syrian Kurdish population.
Police surrounded the stadium and fired shots in the air, but it was not
whether they had been able to stop the fighting. Officials were not
available for comment.
Hospital officials said four of the injured had bullet wounds, including an
11-year-old boy who had been shot in the stomach.
Visiting fans threw sticks and stones at the Kameshli supporters, witnesses
said. “We had nothing to defend ourselves with because we were not expecting
this, so we had to run and there was a stampede,” a witness said.
The stadium clash led to rioting yesterday by Syrian Kurds living in the
About nine people died and up to 40 needed hospital treatment. The rioting
spread to nearby Amouda, Ras al-Ain, and al-Hassaka, where buildings were also
Sources close to government said they believed certain Kurdish politicians
were turning the issue “from a soccer-match riot into an issue of a political
dimension,” a reference to demands by some 200,000 Syrian Kurds who are not
recognized as citizens.
The Hairenik weekly newspaper contacted the Armenian Prelacy in Kameshli to
confirm the status of the Armenian population in the region. The Prelacy
reported that stability had been fully restored on Monday, and that all
Armenians there and in sounding areas, are safe.
Kurds make up some two million of Syria’s 17 million large population. But
Syrian officials avoid reference to Kurds as a distinct minority and stress
importance of national unity.

5) Kocharian Congratulates Reelected Putin

YEREVAN (Reuters)–President Robert Kocharian joined government leaders around
the world on Monday in congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his
widely anticipated landslide reelection in the weekend presidential ballot.
“On March 14, Russia made a firm choice in favor of stability, democracy, and
prosperity,” Kocharian said in a message to Putin, publicized by his office.
“Armenia highly appreciates your huge personal contribution to the deepening
of the allied Russian-Armenian relations. Success has been obvious in the
spectrum of bilateral ties. Let me assure you of our readiness to continue
efforts at stepping up cooperation between Russia and Armenia.”
Kocharian’s positive reaction was echoed by his political allies. “Putin’s
reelection means an internal strengthening of Russia, which is definitely good
for Armenia,” said Vahan Hovhannisian, leader of the governing Armenian
Revolutionary Federation.
Hovhannisian, at the same time, noted that Yerevan will need to display
“greater flexibility” in maintaining simultaneously good relations with the
West and its main strategic ally, which has been more assertive towards its
former Soviet satellites under Putin.
Some Armenian opposition representatives expressed concern at the tightening
of Putin’s grip on power. Shavarsh Kocharian, a senior opposition lawmaker,
deplored “the absence of a real alternative” in the Russian election. “This is
extremely undesirable for Armenia as well, because Russia has substantial
influence on Armenia and would naturally, like countries under its influence,
develop in a similarly authoritarian way,” he said.

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