Rustavi-2 TV (Georgian TV station)
Tbilisi 16 Mar 06

[Presenter] Ethnic Armenians in Akhalkalaki [town in Georgia's Samtskhe-Javakheti region] have called for Armenian to be declared a second official language in Samtskhe-Javakheti. A special appeal to parliament is being drawn up. A meeting of the council of Armenian social organizations led by the heads of the council's six members ended in Akhalkalaki a few minutes ago. There has been more tension in the region since the killing of [ethnic Armenian] Gevork Gevorkyan in Tsalka last week during a clash outside a restaurant.

[Mels Torosyan, captioned as member of the (Akungi) movement, in Russian] I don't know what I can call it. People are not being informed and it is not clear who organized it. If we are allowed to gather and make comments on the air then it's all right. When rumours are being spread it is another matter. Who is behind it? You know better than I do. [Presenter] Our correspondent Lasha Kveseladze is in Akhalkalaki and joins us now live. Lasha, do we know what is in the text of the appeal?

[Correspondent] Yes, we do. Armenian social organizations have been holding a meeting on local television at which they said there had been reports that there would be a protest rally today. The rally did not take place and the organizers of the previous protest [on 11 March] denied any involvement in a planning a rally. At the previous rally Armenians were calling for Armenian to be a second official language in predominantly Armenian areas. Today they officially decided to write a special appeal to MPs.

[Davit Rustakyan, captioned as member of the Virk movement, in Russian] It is about the declaration of the Armenian language as a second official language in ethno-geographically Armenian areas. A decision was made to appeal to the four Armenian MPs in [the Georgian] parliament so that they could raise the issue in there. If they refuse, we will be forced to make use of the relevant clause in the Georgian constitution and begin gathering signatures for a petition.

[Correspondent] Members of Armenian social organizations say that it is not their fault that they do not understand Armenian [as heard, presumably means Georgian] and because of that they face problems. They say Georgians from other regions of the country are being appointed to local government posts in the region. In addition, if Armenian is declared an official language, money will no longer have to be spent on teaching Georgian in the region. They also mentioned the protest rally taking place in Tsalka today which they said had been organized by Svans [natives of Georgia's mountainous Svaneti region who have been resettled in the area]. They welcomed the Svans' protest.

[Azat Mipaktsyan, captioned as member of the Javakhk movement, in Russian] They rang and said that representatives of Svaneti wanted to hold a peaceful rally to ask for the forgiveness of those Armenians who were harmed there. If that is what it really is about and they want to admit their mistake, we welcome that. That is very good, but if it is for another reason it is not.

[Correspondent] The only big protest today took place outside the Akhalkalaki local administration. There the main issue there was electricity supply problems in the region