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Ajaria crisis to affect Armenian economy - paper

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  • Ajaria crisis to affect Armenian economy - paper

    Ajaria crisis to affect Armenian economy - paper

    Azg, Yerevan
    17 Mar 04

    Text of Tatul Akopyan report by Armenian newspaper Azg on 17 March
    headlined "Saakashvili promises to gain a victory over Abashidze in
    two weeks"

    Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's ultimatum to Ajarian leader
    Aslan Abashidze expired on Monday [15 March]. Following tension
    between the Georgian and Ajarian authorities after President Mikheil
    Saakashvili proposed abolishing the Ajarian ministry of state security
    and demanded that the autonomous republic's leader Aslan Abashidze
    detain those who attacked an opposition rally on 20 February,
    Saakashvili presented Abashidze with an ultimatum to accept his
    demands, otherwise "severe repressive measures will be taken".

    Moreover, as he was barred from entering Ajaria, Saakashvili added
    more points to his ultimatum, the first of them being to allow him
    (Saakashvili) to travel freely on the territory of the autonomous
    republic to meet his voters (parliamentary elections in Georgia are
    expected on 28 March).

    Saakashvili also wanted to "disarm illegal armed groups" of 1,500
    guerrillas in Ajaria and to allow the central authorities of Georgia
    to "carry out their duties in the autonomous republic and control the
    region's borders and customs", particularly the port of Batumi and the
    Sarpi checkpoint between Georgia and Turkey. As was expected, Aslan
    Abashidze did not give in to Tbilisi's pressure and rejected the
    ultimatum. An economic blockade was imposed on the defiant region of
    Georgia on Monday with the Georgian navy barring ships from entering
    the port of Batumi and the authorities freezing all the bank accounts
    of Ajarian banks and organizations linked to the Ajarian
    authorities. Air and sea communications were also cut off in a move
    that Saakashvili described as a bid "to exhaust the Ajarian regime's
    resources in two weeks". "In two weeks the Ajarian leadership's
    resources will be exhausted as a result of these sanctions,"
    Saakashvili added, saying that "this is the first time that Georgia
    has used these measures".

    The closure of the port of Batumi will have its direct impact on the
    everyday market of the three South Caucasus countries, for most of the
    products coming from Europe are sent, for example, to Armenia via the
    port of Batumi. Anxiety about a possible fall in the volume of
    products coming into Armenia was voiced by Armenian President Robert
    Kocharyan at yesterday's news conference where the Armenian leader
    expressed the hope that the Ajarian and Georgian authorities will to
    negotiate ways out of the current situation as soon as possible.

    Fuel, grain, sugar, construction materials and various household goods
    are shipped to Armenia via the port of Batumi. If the port stops
    operating, this will naturally lead to a rise in the prices of
    different products in Armenia.