Georgia’s Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze met with President Serzh Sarkisian and his Armenian counterpart Eduard Nalbandian during a two-day official visit to Yerevan than began on Friday.
RFE/RL reports that Vashadze and Nalbandian discussed “a number of issues preoccupying Georgia’s Armenian community.” That included the tense situation in Georgia’s Armenian-populated Javakheti region.
“There is no problem of Javakheti, there is a socioeconomic problem in Javakheti, as well as other regions of Georgia,” Vashadze said at an ensuing news conference with Nalbandian. He insisted that the administration of President Mikheil Saakashvili has done a lot to alleviate the plight of the impoverished region’s population in recent years.
“If somebody in Armenia thinks that people are better off in [Georgia’s second largest city of] Kutaisi than in Samtskhe-Javakheti, then they are deeply deluded,” Vashadze said. “I am ready to pay for your trip and take you [to Georgia] and show that.”
Vashadze denied in that regard any political motives behind the recent controversial arrest of two Armenian activists in the regional capital Akhaltsikhe on espionage charges. “Their rights are protected,” he said. “Lawyers are working for them.”
Nalbandian said the Armenian government is monitoring the high-profile case and has already received relevant explanations from the Georgian side. “The matter is being investigated and as Mr. Vashadze said, things will probably clear up after the investigation is over,” he said.
Regnum news agency reports Vashadze saying: “I have no allergy to Russian language, but I don’t see why should I speak Russian in friendly Yerevan.” The Georgian FM, who is a Georgian citizen as well as Russian, persisted in holding the press conference in Georgian.