TBILISI (Combined Sources)–The governor of Samtskhe-Javakhk Goga Khachidze–representing Georgian President Saakashvilli–met with representatives of the predominantly Armenian populated region on March 22–along with the organizers of a protest that took place in the local town of Akhalkalak on March 13.
Citing economic and security concerns–approximately 1,500 residents had rallied against a recent Georgian parliament resolution calling for the withdrawal of a Russian military base in Akhalkalak.
During their meeting with Khachidze–local leaders–including representatives of non-governmental organizations–as well as Akhalkalak’s representative in Georgian parliament Hamlet Movsisian–and local governor Arthur Yeremian–presented a row of immediate deman’s. These included the teaching of Armenian history in local schools–democratization of local elections–the use of the Armenian language in local juridical processes–restoration of a passport/identification bureau in the region–and reconstruction of roads near the Armenian border where a customs checkpoint is located (goods arriving from Armenia are presently diverted from that checkpoint to approximately 60 miles away for inspection).
Khachidze promised a positive resolution by March 28–to the restoration of a passport/identification bureau. He also pledged to take the issue of teaching Armenian history in local schools to Georgia’s Ministry of Education for a quick resolution.
Though he was unable to provide official responses to the remaining issues–Khachidze later told a press conference that all of the deman’s are legitimate–and he would do his utmost to resolve the issues.