Press digests Ajaria aftermath

BBC News, UK
May 7 2004

Press digests Ajaria aftermath

Ajaria’s drama has met with mixed interpretations
The defusing of the crisis in the Georgian province of Ajaria
following the departure of rebel leader Aslan Abashidze is greeted in
the region’s press with cautious relief.

In Georgia, papers are grateful to Russia for its mediation. A sense
of satisfaction is echoed in the other Caucasian republics of Armenia
and Azerbaijan.

But in Russia the press is full of misgivings. It sees America as the
overall winner and warns of problems ahead.


The pro-government 24 Saati notes the Georgian foreign minister’s
satisfaction that “the burden of Abashidze has been handed over to

Another pro-government paper, Sakartvelos Respublika, carries on its
front page Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s comment that
“Russia has played a positive role”.

The swan song of the Ajarian lion shows Washington and Moscow are
working on a new map of the South Caucasus

Ayasatani Anrapetutyun
The independent Akhali 7 Dge in turn believes that the elimination of
the pro-Russian regime in Georgia was possible only thanks to Western
support. And it expresses the hope that, with that support, “Russia’s
negative role in Georgian politics will diminish”.

The same paper carries an interview with MP Davit Zurabishvili on the
possibility of spreading the “rose revolution” to Georgia’s other
troublesome regions.

He says the peaceful end of the conflict in Ajaria is a “message sent
in two directions”, to the West as well as to Abkhazia and South

In both cases the message is the same: Georgia is “determined to use
only peaceful means” to settle its remaining conflicts.

And interviewed in another independent paper, Rezonansi, the leader
of the opposition New Right party, Davit Gamqrelidze, says the
integration of Ajaria into Georgia will “definitely have a favourable
influence” on settling the Abkhaz conflict.


Elsewhere in the Caucasus, papers are likewise reassured.

Armenia’s Ayasatani Anrapetutyun says the “swan-song of the Ajarian
lion” shows Washington and Moscow are working on a “new map of the
South Caucasus, and have even come to an agreement on some matters”.

New faces will govern Ajaria from now on – of course, looking back
to Tbilisi

Xalq Qazeti
Aravot in turn is full of praise for Mr Saakashvili, noting that his
actions have “nothing in common with political adventure”. This, it
says, was best seen in his enlisting Russia as “an authoritative

Ayots Ashkar also believes developments bode well for the future.

“This creates favourable conditions to overcome a certain coldness in
the Armenian-Georgian relations,” it says.


The pro-government Azerbaijani daily Xalq Qazeti says the conflict
has ended with a clear victory for Georgia.

“The Georgian people are happy. The international community is also
pleased with the fact that the conflict ended without bloodshed. New
faces will govern Ajaria from now on – of course, looking back to
Tbilisi,” it says.

Other papers, however, are less positive.

In the Caucasus, Washington it has managed to pull off its latest
geopolitical triumph

Moskovskiy Komsomolets
The opposition Azadliq has harsh words for the Azerbaijani leadership
over its position on the Ajarian issue.

“The Ajarian dictator has been banished… The Azerbaijani government
should feel sad because the Abashidze regime was its only partner in
corruption,” it says.

And the independent Russian-language daily Zerkalo focuses on
Russia’s reduced influence in the Caucasus.

“The northern neighbour has lost a rather serious ally and a
strategic base in the Caucasus,” it comments.


Russian papers are generally unhappy with the turn of events. Some
view developments as something of a coup for US President George W

Abashidze was literally hounded into resigning

“While Washington is getting itself mired more and more deeply in
Iraq, in the Caucasus it has managed to pull off its latest
geopolitical triumph,” says the mass-circulation Moskovskiy

This, it says, is the only way to interpret the victory of “American
placeman” Mr Saakashvili over Abashidze, who was close to Russia.

Another popular Moscow daily, Moskovskaya Pravda, agrees.

“The events,” it insists, “were not a victory for Saakashvili over
Abashidze, but for America over Russia. The USA is effectively
continuing a carve-up of the Caucasus using its puppets in the

The Russian Communist Party newspaper Pravda in turn takes the
Kremlin to task.

“Abashidze was literally hounded into resigning. And, strange as it
may seem, Secretary of the Russian Federation Security Council Igor
Ivanov took a direct part in this shameful and unlawful affair.”

While the government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta has a word of warning
for the Georgian president.

“Even at Georgia’s most difficult periods, ‘feudal’ Abashidze
maintained peace and stability,” it says. “The ‘democrat’ Saakashvili
is still only at the start of a difficult journey.”

While he seems well-intentioned enough, “we all remember that the
road to hell is paved with good intentions”, the paper adds.