Ajar Supreme Soviet Chairman Aslan Abashidze announced yesterday that the chamber has voted to create a Security Council of Ajaria. It has also adopted a law on the organization of Ajaria’s judiciary, a law on defending public order, and an antiterrorism law. The Supreme Soviet will continue enacting laws for Ajaria considering that Georgia’s 1995 constitution has in effect superseded the earlier Basic Law of Ajaria, Abashidze told yesterday’s news conference. (Russian agencies, March 24)
The Supreme Soviet recently adopted a law providing for direct election of the head of Ajaria by popular vote, instead of election by the legislature as has been the case. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told the press on March 23 that he prefers to withhold public comment on these developments. He offered to travel yet again to Batumi in order discuss these "delicate issues" with the Ajar leaders. (Radio Tbilisi, March 23)
Abashidze’s announcement implies that Ajaria is unilaterally enlarging the powers of its security and law enforcement bodies. It also implicitly makes the case that Ajaria is free to arrogate powers for itself beyond the framework the Basic Law, now pronounced obsolete by Abashidze. Tbilisi’s response has thus far been conciliatory. The autonomous republic is situated astride the non-Russian route for the export of Caspian oil. Abashidze’s announcement adds to recent signals, including one on March 23, that Ajaria may be destined for use as a "card" by Moscow to pressure Georgia and inhibit plans for the oil transit. (See Monitor, March 24)
Battle Erupts in Central Tajikistan.