On November 15, 2009 the third meeting of the experts involved in Georgian component of “The Black Sea Peacebuilding Network” project was held in Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS).
The project is implemented with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and in cooperation with the Crisis Management Initiative.
At the meeting, two representatives of the Experts Working Group provided their presentations on the following topics: Turkish-Armenian Relations (Ivliane Khaindrava – Republican Institute) and The Education of Ossetians (Naira Bepiev – Tbilisi State University).
From the expert’s point of view, there is not only a gap in Turkish-Armenian bilateral relations, but new geopolitical conditions are being developed in South Caucasus region (which started with the war in August 2008). Compared with others, Turkey provided the most rapid response to Russian-Georgian war in August 2008. On August 13, Mr. Erdogan, the prime-minister during his visit in Moscow published a platform on stability and cooperation in South Caucasus. It was interpreted as the effort of Turkey to take initiative in hand. On the background of active Turkish-Russian political contacts and passive position of the USA (the silence of Washington on publication of this initiative had such interpretation), the doubts appeared about the distribution of the spheres of influence by Russia and Turkey in South Caucasus, as well as about the establishment of a joint Russian-Turkish informal protectorate in regions. The doubts became serious with the fact that neither USA not European Union were considered in the platform as the main actors of the region. Armenia also responded quickly to the challenges resulted from Russian-Georgian war, as the mentioned country turned out to be one of the affected parties.
Blocking of the main transport highway of Georgia caused significant economic loss for Armenia; in the conditions of closed borders with Turkey (and Azerbaijan), the danger related to its full dependence on the roads crossing Georgia became more evident. The defensive capacity of Armenia in view of keeping its army properly equipped and armed became an issue as well.
The presentation was focused mainly on the dynamics of the development of Armenian-Turkish relations after Russian-Georgian war. On September 6, 2008 the President of Armenia invited Turk colleague to the football match between Armenian and Turkish teams; in April 2009 it became known that Turkey and Armenia agreed on so called “Road Map” which contains concrete activities and stages of regulating the bilateral relations;
The process of Karabakh conflict resolution and possible linkage of this issue with the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations was reviewed by the presenter. The position of each actor (Europe, USA, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Georgia) in regard with the improvement of Armenian-Turkish relations and the dynamics of its development has been also reflected in the presentation. As mentioned by the presenter, Georgia should take into account that the situation in South Caucasus is dynamic and new conditions require new approach. From expert’s point of view, the effort of Georgia to “jump up” from the regional format and solve the problems of its security and advance in the European Integration independently, was ruined by the war of August, 2008. “We, not only have lost the position of informal leader of a region, but also have become a generator of problems in region”; therefore, he thinks that the opinion of Vaclav Havel should be taken into account, based on which, Georgia should strengthen positions in its neighborhood first.
The expert also spoke about the expected results for Georgia on the background of improved Armenian-Turkish relations .
An interesting discussion was held between the experts after the presentation. The following issues were discussed: tariff policy of Georgia in relation to Armenia, advantages and disadvantages of the opening of Larsi check-point, the attitudes and points of view expressed by Armenian and Turkish population regarding the mentioned processes, positions expressed in Armenian press, the attitude of Azerbaijan towards Armenian-Turkish relations. The discussion also refered as how the plans of Armenian-Turkish close relations will be reflected on the existing situation in Samtskhe-Javakheti. Two viewpoints have been expressed: first, the tension in Javakheti is decreasing slowly, the fears regarding the possibility of new genocide of Armenians by Turkish side which have arised after Russian army left the region, should be forgotten due to close relations between Turkey and Armenia. Second, Dashnak party might try to consider Javakheti as the place of their existence and presentation. It can not be excluded that Javakheti, in some form, shall be considered by particular forces as a „compensation“ for concessions around Karabakh.
The Education of Ossetians
Mrs. Naira Bepieva (Tbilisi State University) spoke about the problems regarding the education of Ossetians in their mother tounge in Georgia. The speaker mentioned that, historically, even Georgian kings were concerned about the education of Ossetians. She presented a number of history notes reflecting this process starting from the 13th century up today. The efforts of temporal and church representatives to educate Ossetian ethnos living in Georgia, served for their maximum integration in the country, as well as for building the respect in them towards Georgian and Christian values. The attention in this direction was not decresed even later, however, the events in 1990-ies had negative influence on the education of Ossetians. Due to mass migration, the number of Ossetian students and teachers of Ossetian language (nowadays such human resource is few in Georgia and will be none in near future) was reduced considerably. Respectively, few schools have remained where Ossetian language is taught (it is highly positive fact that Ossetian Sunday School was opened by the Ministry of Education of Georgia in Tbilisi in 2006).
The speaker mentioned that the existing text-books of Ossetian language is out of dated. In addition, majority of Ossetian students (and teachers) are left without text-books of Ossetian language. Further efforts of teaching special subjects in Ossetian speaking schools are useless as students have no opportunity to learn their mother tongue from the beginning in lower classes.
The presentation was followed by a discussion between experts. A number of important issues have been discussed: situation in Znauri district in terms of education, shortage of text-books in Ossetian language, appropriateness of teaching in Ossetian language in Georgia. A number of ideas were expressed by the members of Experts Group, namely: about making admission exams easier for Ossetian entrants, learning an Ossetian language by Georgians, which would improve communication with the neighbours.
Review of an Agenda for the next meeting of the experts of Black Sea Peacekeping network. Other issues. End of the meeting
At the end of the meeting the presentations to be provided on the next meeting were discussed. Possible topics include: The Markets of Foreign Countries Existing in Georgia and the Perspective of EU Role in Georgian-Russian (also Georgian-Ossetian and Georgian-Abkhazian) Conflict Resolution.
The tools of providing specific reccomendations was also discussed by the experts.
The project is funded by the government of Finland