Georgian leader offers help to improve Armenian-Turkish ties

Georgian leader offers help to improve Armenian-Turkish ties

Mediamax news agency
12 Mar 04


“We would like to make our own contribution to the process of
normalizing Armenian-Georgian relations,” Georgian President Mikheil
Saakashvili said in Yerevan today.

During his forthcoming visit to Ankara, he is ready to discuss the
prospects for the restoration of transport communications that link
Turkey with Armenia, including the Kars-Gyumri railway, Saakashvili
told Mediamax today. However, he noted that “in the long-run,
everything will depend on the good will of the Turkish authorities”.

Saakashvili said that Turkey could play an important role in
stabilizing the situation in the region and is interested in good
relations with all the countries of the region, including Armenia.

For his part, Armenian President Robert Kocharyan said that the
restoration of the Kars-Gyumri railway would be of benefit not only to
Armenia and Turkey, but also to Georgia and Russia.

“We would be grateful to our Georgian colleagues if they included
these issues in their agenda during their negotiations in Turkey,”
Kocharyan said.

Debuts abound with sounds to delight the musical patron

Cleveland Plain Dealer, OH
March 12 2004

Debuts abound with sounds to delight the musical patron

Donald Rosenberg
Plain Dealer Music Critic

It is almost impossible to fathom that Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his
extraordinary Symphony No. 1 when he was 19. And it is equally hard
to figure out how Sergey Khachatryan, who is 19, can play Sibelius’
Violin Concerto with such astonishing mastery.

But there they were, the Russian composer and the Armenian violinist,
on the Cleveland Orchestra’s program Thursday night at Severance
Hall, providing an audience with wondrous sounds and musical ideas.
The concert held no fewer than three debuts: Khachatryan, guest
conductor Robert Abbado and Susan Botti’s “Impetuosity,” a world

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No one will argue if discussion of the violinist’s achievement comes
first. Khachatryan brought to the Sibelius concerto a blend of tonal
allure, emotional urgency and interpretive truth that lifted the
piece to the stratosphere.

Sibelius is not the composer a young violinist might be expected to
turn to when starting out on a career. The concerto challenges even
the most mature artists, its austerity of design and subtlety of
romantic expression calling for a musician of unusual insight.

Khachatryan defied every stereotype of youth. He probed deeply
beneath phrases to find the essence of Sibelius’ meaning. His
lustrous tone projected beautifully at all volumes.

The performance, quite simply, was sensational, the kind of
experience that comes along with woeful infrequency. Let’s hope
Khachatryan returns soon and often.

In the Sibelius and the night’s other works, Abbado conducted in
large, fluid gestures, sometimes drawing meaty sonorities but also
letting details become fuzzy. The Shostakovich, which should be
alternately sardonic and impassioned, received only middling
treatment, with too much vague shaping and unsettled ensemble pulling
the score to the ground.

Luckily, Botti’s “Impetuosity” remains airborne for most of its
invigorating 10 minutes. The composer, who grew up in Cleveland and
now serves on the faculty at University of Michigan, maintains a bold
and fresh sense of motion in this score. Sounds fly by in a swirl,
waltz gleefully about and head off on jazzy tangents. The only moment
of repose is a solo for the concertmaster, who has a dandy workout
before the orchestra resumes its mysterious and jaunty ride.

The program began with a performance of Haydn’s Symphony No. 93, in
which Abbado lavished attention on dynamics and matters of phrasing.
On the plus side, he reduced the strings to chamber-orchestra
proportions, entreated the timpani to bring utmost focus to pitches
using hard sticks, and enjoyed Haydn’s jokes.

Elsewhere, Abbado resorted to all sorts of mannerisms rather than
allow Haydn to reveal his felicitous surprises in all their natural
grace and humor.

The program is repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

Different countries, same goal

Press Herald, ME
March 12 2004

Different countries, same goal

By MATT WICKENHEISER, Portland Press Herald Writer

Staff photo by John Patriquin

Marina Kalysh, who operates a lucrative tile business in Russia, has
been observing business practices at Paul G. White Tile Co. in
Portland. Speaking of the way Dave Beattie, the manager of Paul
White, interacts with his employees, Kalysh says, “He managed to
build a real crew. They lead the business together.” Kalysh is part
of a cultural exchange run by Southern Maine Community College.

Marina Kalysh and Dave Beattie both sell tile, but the similarities
between the two entrepreneurs mostly end there.

She runs a 15-person shop in Smolensk, Russia, that caters almost
exclusively to high-end customers. Her division, Skvirel Stroy
Setvic-Smolensk, comprises designers who only sell tile. They don’t
deal with carpet, they don’t measure rooms for proper fits, and they
don’t install their goods.

Beattie is the manager of Paul G. White Tile Co. Inc. of Portland,
and has 85 people working for him. His shop is full service, helping
customers who might rent a small efficiency in Portland or own a Cape
Elizabeth mansion with everything from choosing tile or carpet to

Despite their differences, or maybe because of them, the two have
learned from each other during the last month as they worked together
through a Southern Maine Community College program. The initiative
brought 10 small-business managers from Russia to the Portland area.

One of the big things Kalysh learned during her stay was how
salespeople need to focus on politeness and patience with customers
in a shop, she said. Kalysh also sat in with Beattie as he bargained
with suppliers for lower prices, and discussed advertising strategies
with local media outlets. She observed his management style, and saw
how he joked with his staff, making the workplace a bit more

“He managed to build a real crew,” said Kalysh. “They lead the
business together.”

Since 1995, SMCC’s Community Connections program has brought more
than 200 businesspeople to Portland from countries that were once
part of the Soviet Union, according to Debra Andrews, director of the
Center for Global Opportunities at the college.

“It’s an intercultural sharing,” said Andrews.

The main goal of the program is to show entrepreneurs from the former
Soviet Union how business is conducted in the United States, giving
them ideas on how to strengthen their home marketplaces. In addition
to businesspeople, legal professionals, local government officials
and nongovernmental organization leaders participate.

“In a nutshell, at the end of the Cold War, we didn’t need the budget
to fight the Cold War,” explained Andrews. “The State Department saw
an opportunity to do something proactive instead of reactive: ‘Let’s
help support these former Soviet republics as they’re growing their
economies and creating their constitutional democracies. Let’s bring
them over and show them how things work in this country.’ ”

Andrews has been running the program since 1995. It is one of 50 such
programs across the United States and the only one in Maine.

Participants must speak English and be a manager at a small business.
Andrews and her staff pick the participants, secure for each a host
family where they will live for the month, and identify businesses
that are similar to the ones they run in their home countries. Most
of the companies participating in the Portland area are small, said
Andrews, and receive an opportunity for a firsthand look at another
culture that is often only available to workers for multinational

“It gives we (Americans) who grew up in the U.S. and thought the
Soviet Union was bad, bad, bad a chance to meet these people,” said
Andrews. “Your world view is broadened.”

Beattie, for example, said his perception of business in Russia was
from television images of long lines at grocery stores that didn’t
have enough bread for their customers. Talking to Kalysh, he learned
she operates a lucrative business in a city of 550,000 people, he

“Things are similar, but dissimilar,” he said.

Beattie said he suggested to Kalysh that to deal with competition,
she find small services that set her apart from the other operations.
For instance, he said, none of the tile shops in Kalysh’s city offers
labor, only sales.

By hiring some tile installers, or even by carrying an area carpet
line, she may boost business, he said.

“If she grasps one of those and makes it work, that will be a major
change in her business,” he said.

For Kalysh, who’s only been in the tile business for a few months,
“any kind of experience is useful.”

Andrews said a group of Armenian businesspeople would be visiting for
a month in April, the first time participants from that country would
take part in the program in Maine. The federal program started in
1994 as “Business for Russia,” with opportunities only for residents
of that country. The program was so successful it was expanded and
renamed, and today also includes participants from Belarus, Armenia,
Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Ukraine and

The initiative is fully funded by the State Department’s Bureau of
Educational and Cultural Affairs, said Andrews.

“It beats paying for the Cold War, I think,” she said.

Andrews said the program tries to emphasize four main points to the
businesspeople, and asks the businesses they visit to reinforce them.

Prepare for success with a good strategic plan.

Do well by doing the right things and giving back to the community.

Develop the employee base.

Focus on both external customers and internal customers, such as

On a recent State Department trip to Ukraine, Andrews said she found
out that the lessons that had been learned in the United States by
previous program participants are paying off.

She contacted a program alumnus whose company makes microsensors that
regulate temperatures in different appliances. Five years ago, the
man spent time with a manager at a local McDonald’s restaurant, and
that experience gave him the motivation to contact the McDonald’s
restaurants opening in his country, Andrews said. Today, the chain is
one of his major clients.

Additionally, Andrews said, the man took the program’s four main
points to heart. He now gives his employees their birthdays off and
offers paid time off when a worker experiences a death in the family
or other personal problem.

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791- 6316 or at:
[email protected]

Jewish Community of Armenia Helps Musician

The Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS (FJC), Russia
March 12 2004

Jewish Community of Armenia Helps Musician

YEREVAN, Armenia – Jewish community in Armenia helped in production
and release of ‘Exodus’ CD by Yerevan-based singer-songwriter Willy

This unique album and the upcoming gala-concerts to be given in
Yerevan and Moscow, present an enormous opportunity for the Jewish
community of Armenia and Willy Weiner to raise awareness about Jewish
people and their culture.

While the Jewish community in Armenia is relatively small, it has
established the ‘Menorah’ Jewish Cultural Center, headed by the

Weiner celebrated news of the album release with the Yerevan Jewish
community, presenting a concert for members based on his latest
project “Jewish Traditional Classical Music in Armenia”.

‘Exodus’ is the latest of three albums by Willy Weiner based on
classical Jewish orchestral pieces, the other two being ‘Chalom’ and

Armenian paper points to growing racism in society

Armenian paper points to growing racism in society

Aravot, Yerevan
12 Mar 04

Text of unattributed report by Armenian newspaper Aravot on 12 March
headlined “Official racism”

“The increase in anti-Armenian sentiments in Azerbaijan and its
consequences cannot be an excuse for spreading racist and chauvinistic
ideas that are characteristic of our society,” the Civic Society
Institute, the Yerevan Press Club, the Helsinki Committee and the
Caucasus Centre for Peaceful Initiatives said in a joint statement
published in the press yesterday. The authors of the statement are
anxious about “irresponsible statements by some Armenian politicians
and public figures” who make unacceptable generalizations with regard
to the whole Azerbaijani people.

The chairman of the foreign relations committee of the National
Assembly, Armen Rustamyan, and the leader of the Republican Party’s
parliamentary faction, Galust Saakyan, are these “irresponsible
figures”. The authors of the statement think that statements by
officials who have such a high political level and represent the
ruling coalition are more than unacceptable because they may be
understood to be the official position of our country. In turn, this
will create new obstacles for a peaceful settlement to the Karabakh
issue. It is natural that the statement by these four public
organizations will meet with resistance from our nationalistic
circles: how can racism and chauvinism be to blame if we have to live
in an atmosphere of permanent hatred, hostility and revenge in order
to preserve our national originality?

The president of our country has expressed almost the same
idea. According to him, the Budapest incident [the killing of an
Armenian officer] testifies to the fact that Armenophobia has reached
a physiological level in Azerbaijan. If the country’s president
expresses such ideas and if he in fact says during a meeting with
students that the Azerbaijanis have innate pathological Armenophobia,
which makes them reach for an axe when they meet an Armenian, there is
no need to complain about Rustamyan and Saakyan. The authors of the
joint statement are wrong as racist and chauvinistic ideas have been
an ordinary thing in our society for a long time. They are being
stimulated by the official ideology and propaganda.

Armenian, Georgian presidents pleased with first meeting

Armenian, Georgian presidents pleased with first meeting

Mediamax news agency
12 Mar 04


The presidents of Armenia and Georgia, Robert Kocharyan and Mikheil
Saakashvili, are pleased with their first meeting that took place in
Yerevan today.

Speaking at a briefing in Yerevan, the Armenian and Georgian leaders
said that they had discussed mutual relations, regional and
international problems.

Armenian President Robert Kocharyan said that he and Mikheil
Saakashvili had agreed that the leaders of the two countries would
meet often, moreover not only in the course of visits or within the
framework of international forums. “We have also decided to have
informal contact,” Robert Kocharyan said.

Saakashvili said that his “impression was exclusively positive” of
Robert Kocharyan. “Armenia is fortunate to have such a president,”
Saakashvili said. He believes that Robert Kocharyan is “an ideal
partner” for Georgia.

Saakashvili hopes for greater integration on eve of Armenian visit

Georgian leader hopes for greater integration on eve of Armenian visit

Azg, Yerevan
12 Mar 04

Georgia is pursuing bilateral integration with Armenia and Azerbaijan
respectively, as a way to integrate all three countries, Georgian
President Mikheil Saakashvili has said. Interviewed by an Armenian
newspaper on the eve of his visit to Yerevan, Saakashvili advocated
freedom of movement across borders and the removal of customs
barriers. Describing the emotional tenor of relations as important, he
said that he hoped to learn as much as possible from President Robert
Kocharyan. Saakashvili said that he would take “daring” steps to
reopen the rail link through Abkhazia. He also said that Georgia was
ready to help establish relations between Armenia and Turkey. The
following is the text of Tatul Akopyan and Agavni Arutyunyan’s
interview with Saakashvili, as published in Armenian newspaper Azg on
12 March and headlined “I expect fair and natural talks with my
Armenian counterpart. Mikheil Saakashvili’s exclusive interview with
Azg and Armenian TV’s second channel”; subheadings inserted

Yesterday at a little past eight in the evening Azg reporters Tatul
Akopyan and Agavni Arutyunyan sat down for a conversation with the new
president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, in Tbilisi, an exclusive
opportunity to hear the views of our neighbouring country’s leading
figure on issues of mutual concern on the very eve of his visit to
Armenia. (Saakashvili arrives in Yerevan today, 12 March, on a two-day
official visit at the invitation of his Armenian counterpart, Robert
Kocharyan.) Greeting the Armenian journalists, Saakashvili said the

[Mikheil Saakashvili] I always talk to Armenian reporters with
pleasure. It is as precious for me as to talk to local reporters. I
think that these obstacles are unnecessary, Armenia is not a foreign
land, but a part of our region, our close neighbour, our friend,
that’s why every word uttered in Armenia finds its response in Georgia

Georgia wants common legal system with Azerbaijan, Armenia

[Azg correspondent] Mr President, what are Georgia’s political and
economic priorities as regards Armenia?

[Saakashvili] Everything is very simple. Armenia is our friend, our
neighbour, a brotherly state. And there is no need to talk about
certain pragmatic priorities. Our relations should first of all come
from the heart. If they don’t come from the heart, there can’t be a
big friendship. I keep reiterating that we are Caucasians and the
Caucasus is a single whole. We should adopt the path of political and
economic integration of the South Caucasus. Naturally it is not
working out for all three countries at this stage, because of past
conflicts, that is why it is necessary to choose a bilateral
integration path. It is the way both for Armenia and Georgia, and for
Azerbaijan and Georgia. In this way we can achieve a point where our
people will live better. What does integration mean? It is the
exemption of all customs obstacles, setting common tariffs, reducing
them and in certain cases cancelling them fully. Integration is also
the freedom of people’s movement. The people do move (from one country
to another), but they are stopped at the borders. It is funny that
people have to wait 40-60 minutes at the border to cross from Armenia
to Georgia. It is unacceptable, not serious; it is a leftover of a
feudalistic regime. We need the free transit of both people and
goods. For this we need a common legal system. I mean that a person
who is registered as a Georgian [citizen] should have the same status
in Armenia, and vice versa. Any Armenian juridical person should not
need to pass all kinds of legal red tape or registration [in
Georgia]. I think when these obstacles are dealt with, we will have a
totally different situation.

Today each one of our countries, taken separately, is weak, for the
market needs expansion, a larger space. Moreover, as regards relations
with Europe, the USA and Russia, it’s better for us to have a joint
and (consequently) stronger position. I am confident that this is not
a Utopia, I have concrete deadlines, and in a year and half to two
years we will achieve results similar to those of Europe.

Georgia and Armenia should share experience

[Correspondent] Mr Saakashvili, you earlier stated that you intend to
break the formal barrier of relations between Georgia and Armenia
during Shevardnadze’s reign. What steps exactly does Georgia expect
Armenia to undertake, and what can promote the escalation and
expansion of bilateral ties?

[Saakashvili] Before it was like this: as far as we promoted friendly
relations with Azerbaijan and had many economic and political ties, we
were to have friendly relations with Armenia as well, but only because
we had good relations with Azerbaijan. It is absurd. We do have
friendly relations with Azerbaijan, and will have friendly ties with
Armenia, too. This is not just an “obligation”, but because Armenia is
a close neighbour, a country with which we have past and current ties,
common history, cultural and human relations. Besides, Armenia is a
country that has the largest recognition among the countries of this
region. Naturally, the other countries of the region are also known,
but still, Armenia maintains its attraction, and has a long history of
friendship and integration with the West and Russia. This experience
should be used for the benefit of the entire region. So, what I expect
from Armenia: firstly I hope we will unify our economic and legal
systems. Second, we should foster contacts between our nations’
representatives on the level of associations, cultural unions and
educational institutions.

This may be viewed as a lyrical detail, but I attach great importance
to the emotional degree of our relations. I want us to share our
experience. For instance, we are now trying to regulate ties with
Russia, and in this respect Armenia can seriously help us, for it has
close and friendly relations with Russia. I am eager to learn many
things on my visit to Armenia, so it is not only a visit to become a
friend of Mr Kocharyan. I can learn from him and practise whatever is
possible to practise. I would want to visit Armenia not for two days,
but for a couple of weeks. But presidency is like a prison, the
timetable is very tense and you have to absorb everything like a
sponge. Therefore, the fact-finding aspect of every visit is very
important to me. I am to meet different people in Armenia, and this is
a heartfelt visit for me, and you know that the heart has emotions,
there is no mere pragmatism here.

More integration into Georgia for region with ethnic Armenian

[Correspondent] The former Georgian ambassador to Armenia, Nikoloz
Nikolozishvili, was recently appointed your authorized representative
in Samtskhe-Javakheti Region [a part of Georgia with a mainly ethnic
Armenian population]. Nikolozishvili talked about the social and
economic problems in the region at a recent meeting with President
Kocharyan. What actual steps will be taken in this direction?

[Saakashvili] This issue is important to me, for first of all the
ex-ambassador loves Armenia. He has not been a mere ambassador. He is
in love with Armenian culture, and speaks Armenian. Secondly, this
region is in a difficult, social situation, not because it is
populated with Armenians, but because the whole of Georgia is in a
poor situation. Moreover, the region “boasts” a difficult climate, as
well as some serious problems. A major problem is the roads. One of my
major tasks is going to be building normal roads in Akhalkalaki, so
that the region integrates into Georgia’s economic life. Also we will
ensure that red tape and other bureaucratic mechanisms are cut at the
root there, so that all problems are solved quickly. And we shall set
up local programmes for social and economic development. The main
employer in Akhalkalaki is the Russian military base. But this is
temporary, and not normal. At present we are discussing with European
and other agencies ways of setting up agricultural and industrial
enterprises that will be financed by European money, and will be able
to pay for themselves in two to four years. Armenians are talented
people and they will succeed if they are given the minimum conditions.

Saakashvili to be “daring” in reopening Abkhaz railway

[Correspondent] Mr Saakashvili, the importance of the Abkhaz railway
for Armenia is apparent. How do you see integration when the railway
does not function?

[Saakashvili] This is an important issue for me. And this concerns not
only Armenia, but Georgia as well. Here everything depends upon the
progress reported in Gali District. We have set up a trilateral
commission together with the Russian and Abkhaz de facto
authorities. This commission now works, and its initial concern is the
economic infrastructure. Russia displays eagerness. I believe there
are many Abkhaz who realize the importance of economic
infrastructure. At this stage we need good will, of which we have more
than enough. The deadlock concerns not only Armenia, but Georgia,
too. I am going to take daring steps to open the railway.

[Correspondent] What do you mean by “daring steps”?

[Saakashvili] The former Georgian authorities said that as long as
Abkhazia’s status is undecided, we should not start economic
relations. I am of a different opinion: I think that this is a
parallel process. One should start with economic cooperation, but not
vice versa.

Georgia ready to help advance Turkish-Armenian relations

[Correspondent] Mr Saakashvili, what role can Georgia possibly play in
Turkish-Armenian relations?

[Saakashvili] Georgia is ready to have the utmost participation in
constructive relations between Armenia and Turkey. I am of the opinion
that Turkey is more than ready for this. Of course, Turkey has close
partner relations with Azerbaijan. This fact is worth considering, we
should also see that Turkey well realizes the need to develop ties
with Armenia to achieve peace in the region. For this purpose we will
be glad to assist. It is very important to us, it is a factor of
stability and development for Georgia. Turkey has played a positive
role in Georgia up to now. I think whatever Armenia can do to help us
in our relations with Russia, Georgia is able to do as regards
Turkish-Armenian contacts.

NATO chief hopes officer’s killing not to threaten coop with Armenia

NATO chief hopes officer’s killing not to threaten cooperation with Armenia

Mediamax news agency
10 Mar 04


NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has sent a letter to
Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan in connection with the
killing of Armenian Lt Gurgen Markaryan by an Azerbaijani serviceman
in Budapest on 19 February.

The press service of the Armenian Foreign Ministry quotes the NATO
secretary-general as saying in the letter that he was “deeply shocked
by the brutal killing of the Armenian officer” and asked to pass his
sympathy to his family, Mediamax reports.

“As you know, relevant Hungarian agencies are conducting a detailed
investigation into the incident and I am convinced that they will do
their best to find out all the circumstances of the killing and to
make sure that justice is administered. I myself will follow the
course of the investigation and the subsequent trial,” Jaap de Hoop
Scheffer said.

The NATO secretary-general expressed the hope that this crime would
not pose a threat to the development of cooperation between Armenia
and the alliance and said that NATO appreciated Armenia’s contribution
to the Partnership for Peace programme. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer added
that the further expansion of regional cooperation in the South
Caucasus is one of the key components of the programme.

On 23 February, the Armenian ambassador to NATO, Vigen Chitechyan,
forwarded Vardan Oskanyan’s letter to Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The
Armenian foreign minister says in the letter that the Azerbaijani
officer’s action “was somewhat expected because it was a logical
consequence of bellicose statements by the previous and new
Azerbaijani authorities”.

[Passage omitted: Known details of the Budapest incident]

Georgian president arrives in Armenia “with love”

Georgian president arrives in Armenia “with love”

Public Television of Armenia, Yerevan
12 Mar 04

[Presenter over video of meeting] Georgian President Mikheil
Saakashvili has arrived in Armenia on an official visit for the first
time. Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan, the chairman of the
standing parliamentary commission for foreign relations, Armen
Rustamyan, and other officials met Saakashvili at the airport. Foreign
Minister Vardan Oskanyan said that our neighbour Georgia is one of the
regional countries with which we have no problems. The Georgian
president stressed the importance of relations with our country. He
noted that Armenia has a sufficiently kind and wise president who can
give serious advice during discussion of serious problems.

[Mikheil Saakashvili at airport, voice-over in Armenian] I do not
think of this as an official visit. I came to Armenia with love. Our
countries are historical neighbours. We cannot exist and develop
separately. Armenia and Georgia must act and cooperate jointly.

[Vardan Oskanyan] Following Mr Saakashvili’s recent visit to France,
where he made some proposals to start cooperation on integration
between the three countries in the Caucasus – I think that this is an
interesting proposal. But Azerbaijan has always hindered this. He also
visited Baku. We are very interested in Azerbaijan’s position
regarding this proposal.

The second interesting proposal made by Mr Saakashvili was to approach
settling conflicts through economic cooperation. He is preparing to
present such proposals to Abkhazia. We hope that it will be catching
for Azerbaijan too. We must settle conflicts by creating the most
favourable atmosphere through economic cooperation and cooperation in
other spheres. These two main issues are on the agenda. I hope that
there will be interesting talks between the two presidents.

Saakashvili links Moscow-Yerevan rail to return of Abkhaz refugees

Georgian leader links opening of Moscow-Yerevan railway to return of Abkhaz

Imedi TV, Tbilisi
12 Mar 04

[Presenter] The restoration of the Abkhaz section of the railway
connecting Russia with Armenia is the main issue for the official
Yerevan. Not a single train has arrived in Yerevan from Moscow since
the Abkhaz war.

Today Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said that the railway
link would be restored if refugees [from Abkhazia] returned to their
homes and political issues were resolved. Saakashvili intends to use
Armenia’s good relations with Russia in settling Georgian-Russian
relations. The president has already met his Armenian colleague
[President Robert Kocharyan]. Now he is at Echmiadzin where he is
meeting Catholicos of All Armenians Garegin II.

[Saakashvili, video starts in mid-sentence] – especially in
[Abkhazia’s] Gali District, connected with the creation of security
guarantees for people who return [to their home], as well as with
general economic restoration in the whole region. Naturally, all of
this will facilitate economic development, including the restoration
of the transport infrastructure.

We are working within a trilateral commission, with Russia and
Abkhazia’s de-facto authorities. We think that Russia could play a
constructive role in this issue. There is the Geneva process, as well
as the group of the UN secretary-general’s friends in Georgia. They
are addressing [inaudible] issues there.

I think that now the Georgian side is ready to pursue a peaceful
course in a much stronger manner. After the [presidential] election in
Russia – we have already found a common language with Russia – I think
that Russia will spend more time on this issue. As regards the Abkhaz
authorities, there too a change of leadership is planned this year. I
think that with the change of leadership, problems will start to be
resolved within a much shorter time.

In principle, we realize the importance of this railway for
Armenia. It is important for Georgia as well. Of course, it is linked
to the general security climate and the peaceful resolution of the
problem. All of this cannot be resolved by a one-sided approach. This
issue has several aspects. Of course, we are ready – I repeat once
again – to make bold decision in the interests of the entire region.

[Kocharyan] I will simply add the following. You know that this
situation has been continuing for a long time. In such situations,
normally, people get used to the status quo. Changing the situation
requires, of course, political efforts and will on the part of all
participating sides.

Submitted by Janoyan Ana