The Young Face of Georgia

Noyan Tapan Highlights #10(512)
15 March 2004

The Young Face of Georgia

By Haroutiun Khachatrian

The series of impressions we had got of Mikhail Saakashvili, has been
extended by what we saw during his visit to Armenia. The rather extensive
dialogue of the two presidents has brought a sizable set of additional
information about the new Georgian leader. In short, the positive
expectations we had from fragments seen on TV screens earlier have largely
been confirmed.

The most important element was, of course, the attitude of the President of
Georgia about the regional problems, the unresolved ethnic conflicts being
the most important ones among them. He displayed a sober and pragmatic
stance, carefully avoiding any expressions and words, which could increase
tension and suspicions of whoever concerned. He gave optimistic promises,
extending as far as the promise to re-open the rail link in Abkhazia in a
year period (the official report quotes him as saying this during his
meeting with Artur Baghdasarian, the Chairman of the National Assembly of
Armenia). Similarly, he pronounced many correct and optimistic words about
the regional cooperation and the relations between this region and its
powerful neighbors.

Of course, much of what Saakashvili declared in Yerevan was said by his
predecessor as well. What was different between Saakashvili and
Shevardnadze, was, in my view, that the new 36-year-old president really
meant what he said. It was evident that this is his style: he spoke very
openly, often saying things that few other politicians would. And hence he
looked quite sincere in expressing his goals: settling problems with Russia,
regulate conflicts, stimulate cooperation in the region.

Georgia has been, for a number of reasons, the central element of the South
Caucasus. If its new leader succeeds in implementing his policy, the
situation in the whole region may improve greatly. Good luck!!!