TBILISI: Georgian troops not to replace Russians in Javakheti

Georgian troops not to replace Russians in ethnic Armenian area – president

Imedi TV, Tbilisi
28 Apr 05

[Presenter] The format of President [Mikheil] Saakashvili’s meeting
with Armenian parliamentary speaker Artur Bagdasaryan has had to be
changed because of Saakashvili’s trip to Ninotsminda. He apologized to
his Armenian guest and explained that he was going to
Samtskhe-Javakheti to open a new Armenian school. Saakashvili also
promised him that after the closure of the Russian base in
Akhalkalaki, local Armenians would not be left unemployed.

[Saakashvili, speaking at an open meeting with Bagdasaryan, in
Russian] Unfortunately we have had to change the format of our meeting
for the simple reason that I am flying to Ninotsminda, the biggest
village in Ninotsminda [District], (?Tandzia). There we are building,
today we are starting to build a new large Armenian school from
scratch. It will be ready by 1 September.

We are taking problems in Javakheti very seriously. We will start
building a major road network there. We are not just repairing the
road linking Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki, but in the centre of
Akhalkalaki I will provide additional funds to build and repair the
road network there.

In the autumn will we start building a major road from Tbilisi to
Akhalkalaki, Akhaltsikhe and the Turkish border. It means that the
road network will cover the whole region.

We are beginning a large programme of social rehabilitation for people
who are employed there, including those who currently work on the
Russian military base. We will conduct a programme of social
rehabilitation for all of them. We are not planning to open a new
military unit there, but we are offering them places in nearby units
for their existing pay, or even more, so that they serve in the
Georgian armed forces. For those who do not want to do that, we will
have a separate programme of social rehabilitation for them, such as
business and other programmes, so they do not feel they are losing
out. It should be the opposite. They must feel that the country is
being rebuilt, that we are moving forward.

We are very grateful to Armenia for their help in solving the energy
problem in this region, and not only in this region. Last winter,
problems in Tbilisi were more or less resolved thanks to Armenian
electricity. We will develop these links and in the future we will buy
this energy.

We will do our utmost to ensure there are no problems with the transit
of Armenian freight through Georgia. There will also be other
contacts. Of course, we have very broad contacts but there is a
painful issue [changes thought] – I had a very good conversation on
this with [Armenian President] Robert Sedrakovich [Kocharyan] not long
ago. Our conversations were much more successful than our skiing. They
were really very good and useful for all of us.

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