Underscores the Importance of the Javakhk Armenians’ Outreach to the Newly-Elected Georgian President

January 26, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) held a series of meetings with White House and State Department officials, as well as the Georgian Ambassador to the United States, H.E. Levan Mikeladze, over the past two weeks to inquire about the current situation in Georgia, to share the Armenian American community’s concerns regarding the Armenian-populated Javakhk region in Southern Georgia and to discuss the needs of the Armenian community in Tbilisi and elsewhere in the republic.

These meetings, which were all held in a positive and constructive atmosphere, coincide with the January 16th letter of the Council of Armenian Non-Governmental Organizations of Samtzkhe-Javakhk Region to the newly-elected Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili. This letter states that Javakhk, which prides itself as being part of the historic Armenian homeland, sees the future of the region in the development of a genuine democracy within the context of a pluralist Georgia. The letter also outlines the expectations of the region’s leadership organizations emphasizing Javakhk’s Armenian identity within the diversity of Georgia, its needs for autonomous self-government and its desire to take part in the future nationwide debate which would reshape Georgia as a fair-minded modern democracy able to engage the full potential of its multi-ethnic society.

A similar letter was sent on December 30, 2003 to the then Acting President of Georgia, Nino Burjanadze. The points raised in these letters were also shared directly with Ambassador Mikeladze, a senior diplomat with extensive experience in regional affairs and keen insights into the importance of Georgia’s relations with Armenia.

The letter to Mrs. Burjanadze was signed by A-INFO Union, Akhalkalak; Akunk Union, Akhalkalak; Areg Art Charity Union, Akhalkalak; Armenian Relief Society, Javakhk Chapter; Armenian Sports General Union, Javakhk Chapter; Center for Democracy Development and Reforms, Akhalkalak; Charles Aznavour Charity Union, Akhaltsikha; Lernashkhar Union, Ninotsminda; Oda Union, Ninotsminda; War Veterans Union, Akhalkalak; Writers Union of Javakhk, and; Youth Sports and Culture Union of Javakhk. These organizations now constitute the Council of Armenian Non-Governmental Organizations of Samtzkhe-Javakhk Region.

“The urgent appeal by the grass-roots organizations of Javakhk, which has long suffered under the policies of previous Georgian administrations, represents a major move by the Javakhk civil society to advance the process of change within Georgia and place it on a fast track,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “For the long-term stability of the Caucasus, it is imperative that long-neglected regions, such as Javakhk, are early beneficiaries of this change. We sincerely hope that President Saakashvili and his team will respond promptly and pro-actively to this appeal by seizing this historic opportunity and forging a model partnership with this resourceful and uniquely strategic region.”

In reviewing the specifics of the economy, the ANCA team pointed out the present poor state of the region’s basic infrastructure, the lack of jobs, the region’s inability to communicate with the outside world and the immediate need for new investment. Javakhk has been deprived of any meaningful level of U.S. or other international aid over the past decade. To launch an early economic take-off, ANCA proposed a multi-year and targeted U.S. economic assistance program for Javakhk within the Georgia aid package. Such a package would have to be based on the region’s development priorities and would actively engage the grass-roots leadership of the region.

The recent changes in Georgia were also examined in the larger context of U.S.-Russian relations, the conflicts in the region, the policies of Turkey vis-à-vis Armenia and Georgia, and the changing geopolitics of energy.

Provided below is the full text of the January 16, 2004 appeal to President Mikhail Saakashvili by the Council of Armenian Non-Governmental Organizations of Samtzkhe-Javakhk Region:

Dear President Saakashvili:

We congratulate you on your election as Georgia’s President, and wish you a fruitful work for our state. The unprecedented participation in the presidential elections by the people of Javakhk, and the votes you received, speak of the hope the people have in you and in the democratization process.

We, the leaders of the Armenian non-governmental organizations of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, in this critical time for the Georgian statehood, attach great importance to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of our country.

Prior to the presidential elections, at this fateful period for the Georgian state, we, the leaders of Armenian non-governmental organizations of the territory of Samtskhe-Javakhk, attaching great importance to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country, appealed to the Acting President Nino Burdjanadze. We are now sending you, the president-elect of Georgia, the same appeal expecting your positive response.

The deep national, political, and socio-economic crises of Georgia are the result of the following troubling and unresolved problems:

Fundamental human and ethnic minority rights, guaranteed by the Georgian Constitution and international standards and necessary for establishing a democratic and civil society, are being violated. 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 situation of the Samtskhe-Javakhk region is critical. Existing administrative and governance structures neither take into account the specifics of the region, nor do they correspond to the needs of the population. The system has long demonstrated that it is bankrupt and unproductive.

The Samtskhe-Javakhk region has actually been pushed out of the governing process of the country. The administrative governance of the region has been repressed. No short or long-term socio-economic programs to serve the interests of the population exist. Poverty and desperation have reached threatening levels. Educational and cultural institutions are unsatisfactory.

It is crucial to have the region fully integrated into the state, political, socio-economic, and cultural lives of the country.

We are sure that the civilized resolution to this deep crisis is to clarify the region’s administrative borders, and grant autonomy by way of the constitution.

Thus, we fully support certain constitutional reforms that ensure Georgia’s sovereignty and integrity, while establishing a federative or confederative structure.

We are sure that constitutional reforms that enhance democratic values will make it possible to find solutions to the problems of the entire population of Georgia, including the people of Samtskhe-Javakhk.

We are confident that resolving these issues would ensure the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and would contribute to normal economic development of Georgia.

Council of Armenian Non-Governmental
Organizations of Samtzkhe-Javakhk Region:
January 16, 2004
Akhalkalak, Samtzkhe-Javakhk

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
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