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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Press digests Ajaria aftermath
Adjarian men
Ajaria's drama has met with mixed interpretations

The defusing of the crisis in the Georgian province of Ajaria following the departure of rebel leader Aslan Abashidze is greeted in the region's press with cautious relief.

In Georgia, papers are grateful to Russia for its mediation. A sense of satisfaction is echoed in the other Caucasian republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

But in Russia the press is full of misgivings. It sees America as the overall winner and warns of problems ahead.


The pro-government 24 Saati notes the Georgian foreign minister's satisfaction that "the burden of Abashidze has been handed over to Russia".

Another pro-government paper, Sakartvelos Respublika, carries on its front page Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's comment that "Russia has played a positive role".

The swan song of the Ajarian lion shows Washington and Moscow are working on a new map of the South Caucasus
Ayasatani Anrapetutyun

The independent Akhali 7 Dge in turn believes that the elimination of the pro-Russian regime in Georgia was possible only thanks to Western support. And it expresses the hope that, with that support, "Russia's negative role in Georgian politics will diminish".

The same paper carries an interview with MP Davit Zurabishvili on the possibility of spreading the "rose revolution" to Georgia's other troublesome regions.

He says the peaceful end of the conflict in Ajaria is a "message sent in two directions", to the West as well as to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In both cases the message is the same: Georgia is "determined to use only peaceful means" to settle its remaining conflicts.

And interviewed in another independent paper, Rezonansi, the leader of the opposition New Right party, Davit Gamqrelidze, says the integration of Ajaria into Georgia will "definitely have a favourable influence" on settling the Abkhaz conflict.


Elsewhere in the Caucasus, papers are likewise reassured.

Armenia's Ayasatani Anrapetutyun says the "swan-song of the Ajarian lion" shows Washington and Moscow are working on a "new map of the South Caucasus, and have even come to an agreement on some matters".

New faces will govern Ajaria from now on - of course, looking back to Tbilisi
Xalq Qazeti

Aravot in turn is full of praise for Mr Saakashvili, noting that his actions have "nothing in common with political adventure". This, it says, was best seen in his enlisting Russia as "an authoritative mediator".

Ayots Ashkar also believes developments bode well for the future.

"This creates favourable conditions to overcome a certain coldness in the Armenian-Georgian relations," it says.


The pro-government Azerbaijani daily Xalq Qazeti says the conflict has ended with a clear victory for Georgia.

"The Georgian people are happy. The international community is also pleased with the fact that the conflict ended without bloodshed. New faces will govern Ajaria from now on - of course, looking back to Tbilisi," it says.

Other papers, however, are less positive.

In the Caucasus, Washington it has managed to pull off its latest geopolitical triumph
Moskovskiy Komsomolets

The opposition Azadliq has harsh words for the Azerbaijani leadership over its position on the Ajarian issue.

"The Ajarian dictator has been banished... The Azerbaijani government should feel sad because the Abashidze regime was its only partner in corruption," it says.

And the independent Russian-language daily Zerkalo focuses on Russia's reduced influence in the Caucasus.

"The northern neighbour has lost a rather serious ally and a strategic base in the Caucasus," it comments.


Russian papers are generally unhappy with the turn of events. Some view developments as something of a coup for US President George W Bush.

Abashidze was literally hounded into resigning

"While Washington is getting itself mired more and more deeply in Iraq, in the Caucasus it has managed to pull off its latest geopolitical triumph," says the mass-circulation Moskovskiy Komsomolets.

This, it says, is the only way to interpret the victory of "American placeman" Mr Saakashvili over Abashidze, who was close to Russia.

Another popular Moscow daily, Moskovskaya Pravda, agrees.

"The events," it insists, "were not a victory for Saakashvili over Abashidze, but for America over Russia. The USA is effectively continuing a carve-up of the Caucasus using its puppets in the region."

The Russian Communist Party newspaper Pravda in turn takes the Kremlin to task.

"Abashidze was literally hounded into resigning. And, strange as it may seem, Secretary of the Russian Federation Security Council Igor Ivanov took a direct part in this shameful and unlawful affair."

While the government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta has a word of warning for the Georgian president.

"Even at Georgia's most difficult periods, 'feudal' Abashidze maintained peace and stability," it says. "The 'democrat' Saakashvili is still only at the start of a difficult journey."

While he seems well-intentioned enough, "we all remember that the road to hell is paved with good intentions", the paper adds.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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