ASBAREZ Online [03-18-2004]


1) Kocharian Asks for Resoluteness, Appoints New Prosecutor-General
2) Javakhk Armenians Concur with CE Secretary General, Request Meeting
3) Ajaria Blockade Ends, Stability Restored
4) Armenia At Last Formally Protests British Envoy’s Genocide Denial

1)  Kocharian Asks for Resoluteness, Appoints New Prosecutor-General

YEREVAN (Armenpress/RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian expressed on Thursday
his dissatisfaction with the performance of Armenia’s Office of Prosecutor as
he introduced the country’s newly appointed Prosecutor-General.
Kocharian said the role of the law-enforcement agency has diminished somewhat
under the previous Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian who was relieved of his
post on Wednesday. “Compared to other law-enforcement bodies, the prosecutor’s
office has experienced a certain decline in terms of its place and
significance,” he was quoted by his press office as telling senior
Calling on prosecutors to be more active and resolute in combating crime and
government corruption, he asked them to keep in mind the interests of the
nation, and spare no efforts to preserve investment activity in Armenia, that
has already produced solid economic results.
In introducing the new Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian, Kocharian
him as “professional, firm, and principled.”
Hovsepian, who served as prosecutor-general from 1998-99, was forced to resign
along with the ministers of interior and national security in the wake of the
October 1999 killings in the Armenian parliament.
Kocharian explained that Hovsepian had been forced to resign for purely
political reasons. “I think that [his appointment] is also a restoration of
justice,” he said.
In conclusion, the President emphasized that the Prosecutor’s Office is a body
approved by the Constitution and should assume its responsibilities
thoroughly.  “I expect more decisive work from the newly appointed Prosecutor
and you,” the leader of the country underscored. “There is a [anti-corruption]
program approved by the government, that features a quite important role to
office. We expect more resolute work from the new prosecutor.”

2) Javakhk Armenians Concur with CE Secretary General, Request Meeting

AKHALKALAKI–Representatives of Javakhk Armenian Non-Governmental
(NGO), have expressed full agreement with Council of Europe (CE) Secretary
General Walter Schwimmer’s calls for a decentralized structure in Georgia, and
increased authority to regional and local authorities.
“In recent months, we have appealed to the highest authorities of Georgia,
fully supporting certain constitutional reforms that ensure Georgia’s
sovereignty and integrity, while establishing a confederate structure,” the
NGOs stated in a March 11 letter to the Secretary General, which was presented
to the CE Information Office in Tbilisi on Wednesday.
During his most recent formal talks with President Saakashvili and other
Georgian authorities in late February, Schwimmer advocating a decentralized
structure for Georgia, said. “Of course, this means that Council of Europe
standards with respect to the rule of law, human rights and pluralist
have to be implemented at all levels.”
Javakhk’s NGOs, pointing to violations of the Georgia’s constitution, said
the region has been deprived of fundamental human and ethnic minority rights
that are not only guaranteed by the Constitution and affirmed by international
standards, but also necessary for establishing a democratic and civil society.
“In fact, the process of fulfilling the country’s commitments to the
Council of
Europe has failed. Rejection of the constitutionally-guaranteed principle of
self-governance has left many regions of the country to their fate, resulting
in current dangerous developments,” the NGOs stressed.
In closing, the NGOs request a meeting with Schwimmer, and state that only a
“civilized resolution” to the deep crisis will clarify the region’s
administrative borders, and grant autonomy by way of the constitution.

3) Ajaria Blockade Ends, Stability Restored

BATUMI (Eurasianet)–Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on March 18
the lifting of an economic blockade against the renegade region of Ajaria. The
announcement followed direct talks between the president and Ajarian leader
that resolved “all the questions” that had prompted an armed standoff over the
past four days, according to Saakashvili.
Saakashvili’s face-to-face meeting with Abashidze in Batumi lasted over three
hours. Saakashvili seemed to be in a buoyant mood following the
discussions. “I
believe we have achieved full mutual understanding,” he said. A terse
Abashidze, meanwhile, concurred that “all the disputable issues have been
Georgia imposed measures that sought to economically isolate Ajaria following
an incident March 14, in which Ajarian border guards prevented Saakashvili’s
motorcade from entering the region. Georgian security forces retaliated by
sealing the port at the Ajarian capital of Batumi. In addition, Tbilisi had
brought a halt to all banking activity in the region.
Saakashvili’s chief demands for ending the blockade were: unimpeded access by
central government officials to the territory, central government oversight
over tax and customs revenue collection in the region, and a guarantee of a
free and fair parliamentary campaign and election on March 28.
Ajarian leader Aslan Abashidze has doggedly tried to preserve broad autonomous
powers, specifically control over locally generated revenue. Abashidze has
likewise attempted to maintain tight control over Ajaria’s political
environment, fearful that free elections would break his tight grip on power.
In recent weeks, opposition political activists have endured physical attacks
and other forms of harassment at the hands of Abashidze loyalists.
According to a Rustavi-2 television report, in return for the lifting of the
economic blockade, Abashidze acknowledged the central government’s right to
“impose control over customs, the port and all strategic offices.” The Ajarian
leader also pledged to allow competitive elections and “provide freedom of
speech on the territory of the Ajarian autonomous republic.” In addition,
Abashidze is to be held personally responsible for disarming armed bands of
Ajarian citizens that had been mobilized in recent days.
While clearly happy with the results, Saakashvili cautioned that Abashidze
would be judged on the implementation of the points of agreement. Initial
indicators showed that the March 28 parliamentary could prove a source of
ongoing tension. After his meeting with Abashidze, Saakashvili went to the
headquarters of a major regional opposition movement, Our Ajaria. Abashidze
supporters reportedly restricted access to the meeting, preventing some
opposition activists from attending, Rustavi-2 reported. In addition, regional
television, which is controlled by Abashidze, did not report on the meeting.
Pressure on Abashidze to hold a fair election is not coming solely from
Tbilisi. Prior to the announced ending of the economic blockade, Georgian
officials revealed that Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer
had telephoned Abashidze, urging the Ajarian leader to provide for an open
campaign environment.
For the moment, Saakashvili seemed sufficiently satisfied that the Ajaria
crisis has been defused that he left the country, flying directly from Batumi
to Slovakia to attend an international conference on European Union
One of the main goals of Saakashvili’s presidency is the reestablishment of
Tbilisi’s authority over all of Georgia’s territory. Indeed, prior to his
arrival in Batumi for the talks with Abashidze, Saakashvili stated that his
“responsibility before the history of Georgia means that I must unify
The apparent outcome of the Ajaria crisis marks a quantum leap by
administration towards fulfillment of the unity goal. Of course, the two most
difficult stumbling blocks to reestablishing the territorial integrity of
Georgia–political settlements to the Abkhazia and South Ossetia
likely to prove far more difficult to resolve than did the Ajaria question.

4) Armenia At Last Formally Protests British Envoy’s Genocide Denial

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia has sent a diplomatic note to Britain protesting its
ambassador to Armenia’s inflammatory remark that the 1915 slaughter of more
than one million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey was not a genocide, a spokesman
said on Thursday.
Ambassador Thorda Abbott-Watt’s explicit denial of the genocide, voiced at a
meeting with students last month and reiterated afterwards, has caused an
uproar in Armenia and especially the Diaspora. She has been bombarded with
angry letters over the past two weeks, condemning her and demanding an
Abbott-Watt argues that her comments reflect the position of the British
government which does not recognize the mass killings as genocide. “I am sorry
that my Government’s position on how we refer to the events of 1915-16 causes
you personal distress,” she replied to an Armenian-American critic by e-mail
last week.
There have also been calls for the Armenian government to seek the envoy’s
expulsion from Armenia. But both President Robert Kocharian and the Foreign
Ministry have ruled out that option. The ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian,
said Yerevan can only “regret such a position.”
“Such issues are better dealt with through diplomatic channels, not publicly,”
Gasparian said in a statement. “As in the past, this time, too, the
expressed their position to the UK government with a diplomatic note.”
“Of course each country has its position on this matter, based on its own
strategic interests. However, the ambassadors of those countries to Armenia
should approach such a sensitive issue with great caution and sensitivity.”
In February 2002, the Foreign Ministry protested to Israel over its Ambassador
Rivka Kohen’s similar denial of the genocide. Kohen had told reporters in
Yerevan earlier that what happened to the Armenians was just a “tragedy” that
should not be compared to the Jewish Holocaust. Yerevan’s reaction was more
strongly-worded at the time.
It is not the first time that the current British government’s handling of the
sensitive issue comes into question. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s cabinet faced
domestic protests in January 2001 when it attempted to exclude Armenians from
official ceremonies marking Britain’s Holocaust Memorial Day. It caved in
pressure from prominent public figures and media.
“The Daily Telegraph,” the UK’s best-selling broadsheet newspaper, referred to
the events of 1915 as “the first genocide of the modern era.” “Britain stands
firm among a dwindling band of nations that fail to acknowledge the massacres
were genocide,” another leading London daily, “The Guardian,” wrote in a
lengthy article on the subject.
Ironically, the British statesmen’s First World War-era accounts have been a
major source of reference for the Armenians in their campaign for
recognition of the genocide. The Armenian Genocide Museum in Yerevan, for
example, has a plaque dedicated to Lord James Bryce, whose 700-page Blue Book,
a collection of evidence of the massacres, was published by the British
Office in 1916.

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