Interlocutor of ‘Aravot’ is Arnold Stepanyan, Chairman of the ‘Multinational Georgia’ civic movement, representative of the Armenian community of Georgia.
“Mr. Stepanyan, information was disseminated about the brawl in the churchyard in Javakhk, some described the actions of the police during the incident in the village of Gumburdo in the Akhalkalaki region as disproportionate, the others took the advantage of presenting the incident as an interethnic problem. May the incident affect Armenian-Georgian relations?”.
“Generally, I abstain from making comments on this topic after getting acquainted with the information disseminated by Armenian and Georgian media. First of all, the information is practically incompatible with reality, and promotes intercultural clashes. This approach not only reinforces the resistance in the village, but also can have a negative impact on topics that are not directly related to that incident. I will make an exception and say a few words: a) It is absolutely right, that the church was built as Georgian (it is apparent even to non-professionals, and it is noticeable from notes, attributes, architecture), anyone can go and make sure of it. As far as I know, the church does not dispute the origin of the church. b) Historically, it happened so that there is an Armenian village around the church, and naturally, several generations have become accustomed to considering it as part of their own life. c) The cemetery, from which the relics were excavated, appeared later than the construction of the church. d) It is absolutely unacceptable for any civilized society to dig into relics, which, as I understood in Gumburdo, was initiated by a nan missionary, and the workforce comprised of some young local residents who dug the relics.
If you wanted the truth, here it is. I could tell you more, but I will abstain. Now, the important thing is to stabilize the situation, not to pour oil on the fire and look for a formula, which will be acceptable to all parties. Let me just add that the elections of local self-government bodies will take place in Georgia on October 21. I am more than confident that the incident at this stage could be a provocation by certain groups, who are interested in satisfying their political interests by manipulating people. Besides, I suggest thinking about what such tensions can cause in the regional context, and identifying stakeholders that are capable of influencing such incidents. I think it’s not difficult. I can say quite clearly that the incident developments are beneficial neither for Armenia nor for Georgia, although judging by the behavior of the Georgian and Armenian press, it seems that everything is just the opposite”.
“The trilateral meeting of Azerbaijani, Turkish and Georgian Foreign Ministers Elmar Mammadyarov, Mevlut Chavushoghlu and Mikheil Janelidze took place in Baku in early September. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Chavushoghlu said that “two issues related to Azerbaijan” will be included in the UN General Assembly agenda. Later, on September 11, Georgian Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikheil Janelidze arrived in Yerevan. “Serzh Sargsyan and Mikheil Janelidze exchanged views on current regional and international issues and challenges, touched upon the process of the NK conflict settlement”, was reported in the president’s message. We have been hearing guarantees for years that “there are no unsolvable problems” about the development of relations between the neighboring and friendly countries, do you assess the current level of relations as satisfactory? And in which case Armenia can expect neutrality from official Tbilisi? Do you think that the necessary work is done so that different processes will not have a negative impact on the Armenian-Georgian relations?”.
“It is clear that the intensification of relations between Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan causes a painful reaction in Armenia, but everyone should realize that every country is guided by its own political and economic interests. I think that the Georgian Foreign Minister’s visit to Armenia immediately after the Baku meeting indicates that Georgia does not intend to pursue harmful policies neither towards Armenia, nor its other friendly neighbors. Interstate relations are not unilateral. It is a bilateral movement.
It is another matter how much Armenia is motivated to develop that bilateral relationship and what practical steps it takes for that. This may reflect not only on the scale of mutually beneficial economic projects of regional importance, but also political support, at least maintaining neutrality in painful issues of both countries in the United Nations and other international organizations. In recent years we have indeed heard that there are no unsolvable problems between Armenia and Georgia. I agree with that approach, however, let me add, that there are also a number of unresolved issues, which, if we freeze them, will constantly remind of themselves, and possibly have a negative impact on interstate relations”.