Armenian language = Armenian oil?

September 7, 2009 at 8:58 pm (Armenian-Georgian relations)

Riding high on diplomacy, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian met with Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze on September 1st to discuss the Armenians of Javakhk.  Armenians make up approximately six percent of Georgia’s population with formidable pockets in Tbilisi, Abkhazia, Adjara, and especially Samtskhe-Javakheti, which the Armenians call Javakhk.  Ethnic Armenians make up the majority in Javakhk and have, on and off, advocated for autonomous status – like South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Adjara.

As reported in Asbarez, Javakhk NGOs have been calling on Sargsyan to work with Georgian president Saakashvili on four issues: making Armenian an official regional language, preserving Armenian churches and historical sites, ensuring the release of “young Armenian community leader” Vahagn Chakhalyan (actually the leader of Javakhk’s separatist movement), and making it possible for the Armenians of Javakhk to receive dual Armenian-Georgian citizenship, which Asbarez maintains is a “right provided by both countries’ constitutions.”  Dream big, NGOs.

During his meeting with the Georgian Foreign Minister, Nalbandian stuck to the language and church/historical monuments preservation arguments, and they were received cordially by his counterpart.

Clearly, maintaining the Armenian language where ever it is spoken is in Armenia’s best interest – but there is another juicy bit to Armenia’s support of Javakhk: the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline.   baku-ceyhan-pipeline-pictureThe South Caucasus natural gas pipeline follows a similar route, but ends in Erzurum.  Armenia was totally avoided during the construction of these pipelines and, man, does it hurt. Armenia’s non-existent diplomacy with Turkey was a major factor in the bypass.  Now that things appear to be changing on that front, Armenia could be looking to make up for lost time (and profits).  Perhaps leading with language preservation is a diplomatic foot-in-the-door to opening a broader discussion on Armenia’s new role in regional energy politics.

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