The Ajar deputies have withdrawn from the Georgian parliament, pending a final decision by their Revival Party’s May 30 congress. Jemal Gogitidze, leader of the Revival group of deputies in the Tbilisi parliament, announced on May 15 this decision, adding that the group had already been “boycotting” the parliament de facto for nearly a month. The Ajar deputies–in common with Ajar Republic leader Aslan Abashidze back home in Batumi–complain that the governing Union of Citizens of Georgia (UCG) blocks parliamentary approval of draft legislation to create an Ajar “free economic zone” in the port of Batumi. According to Gogitidze, such a zone could yield one billion dollars worth of annual revenue.
The Revival group also backs Abashidze’s accusations that Georgian security and parliamentary leaders have hatched a plot to overthrow or even assassinate Abashidze. Gogitidze’s statement carefully dissociated President Eduard Shevardnadze from these “dirty machinations,” and disclaimed any “separatist strivings” on the part of Ajaria. Gogitidze nevertheless warned that UCG leaders fuel a conflict between the central government and Ajaria by “completely ignoring Ajaria’s interests.” (Russian agencies, May 15)
Abashidze’s statements have been even more vituperative than Gogitidze’s. Abashidze has close relations with the Russian military command in Ajaria. The Ajar warnings seem intended to achieve two interrelated goals: first, to discourage Tbilisi from pressing for the withdrawal of Russian land, border, and naval forces stationed on Ajar territory, and second, to use the Russian military presence as leverage for forcing the central government to concede more powers to Ajaria.
RAHMONOV THROWS INTO QUESTION POLITICAL SETTLEMENT OF TAJIK CONFLICT.