The Institute for War and Peace Reporting and Media Center initiated a panel discussion, entitled “Current Phase of Armenian-Georgian Relations: Possible Impact of the Recent Incident at Holy Etchmiadzin Church in Tbilisi on Inter-Ethnic Relations”, where panelists Sergei Minasyan, a political scientist and Deputy Director of the Caucasus Institute, Jonny Melikyan, an analyst and head of the Center for Political and Legal Studies, Giorgi Gvimradze of the Strategic Research Center, and Arsen Kharatyan, an expert, shared the position that the recent incident in Tbilisi is a domestic crime evolving diverse interpretations later.
Routine misdemeanor or ethnic conflict?
Sergey Minasyan is convinced that the incident was not premeditated. Though it grew into an ethnic conflict and clash, ‘it does not necessarily mean that the incident may have an impact on the Armenian-Georgian relations or the ties between the two churches.’
Both Sergey Minasyan and Giorgi Gvimradze noted that such incidents may occur in any country, especially in those which have national minorities. The Georgian expert noted that presently in Georgia there exists an atmosphere of ethnic intolerance irrespective of the national identity. The panelists added that the power circles determining the political atmosphere in Georgia are liberal and far from xenophobia.
What can be done to avoid such incidents?
It is essential to raise the civic awareness. The national minorities are taught to defend themselves, Giorgi Gvimradze noted, but they are not taught tolerance. Sergey Minasyan believes that the situation in Georgia exists in Armenia as well, simply the latter has little national minorities and the problem is not that serious.
The panelists believe the dialogue on all levels of governments, churches and societies vital for overcoming the situation. Arsen Kharatyan urged the Armenian community in Georgia to ‘be more active and initiative-taking in Georgian politics’, noting that the Armenian community nominated only one candidate at the latest local elections.
At the closing of the discussion Johnny Melikyan addressed the mass media and remarked that unchecked information must not be spread since it may very often make the situation worse.