Georgia, Iran, and Turkey
Armenians have long been a significant part of the urban population of Georgia, particularly in Tbilisi. Two districts in southern Georgia are predominantly Armenian. The dictatorial regime of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, which ruled Georgia from late 1990 until early January 1992, was extremely intolerant of all ethnic minorities. More than 70,000 Armenians were caught in the crossfire of the Georgian government's conflict with Abkhazian separatists, which reached crisis proportions in the fall of 1993. In this struggle, extreme Georgian nationalists attempted to drive the Armenian population from the country in order to create a homogeneous Georgia. The crisis in Abkhazia had immediate repercussions for Armenia when fighting resulted in the severing of Georgia's Black Sea railroad, a lifeline from Russia to Armenia. The republic thus was cut off from many supplies, particularly grain. In early 1993, when a natural gas pipeline running through Georgia was repeatedly blown up, the Armenian government sharply demanded that the Georgian leader, Eduard Shevardnadze, make a greater effort to secure the necessary flow of gas to Armenia.
Armenia has had better relations with Iran, although Iran has been worried about the presence of Armenian troops occupying Azerbaijani territory just across its border. Two-thirds of the world's Azerbaijanis live in Iran, and the Tehran government fears that émigrés would spread Azerbaijani nationalism among the Azerbaijani population of northern Iran. Armenian troops have at times been no more than twenty kilometers from the Iranian border. On several occasions, Iran attempted to mediate the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but unforeseen actions by the Karabakh forces frustrated these efforts.
Armenia's traditional enemy in the twentieth century has been Turkey. Among outstanding sources of conflict, the most painful and long-lasting has been the Turkish refusal to recognize the deportations and massacres of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as a deliberate, state-sponsored act of genocide. Many Armenians, particularly those associated with the ARF, aspire to restore Armenian control over the lands of historical Armenia that are now under Turkish sovereignty. Although many Armenian émigrés remain hostile toward Turkey today, the Ter-Petrosian government has made improved relations with Ankara a high priority because of the possibility of opening new supply routes and hard-currency markets for Armenian products.
Although no Armenian politician is willing to retract the demand that the Ottoman genocide of 1915 be acknowledged, those around the Armenian president have resisted raising issues likely to alienate Turkey. In late 1992, when Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian spoke about the outstanding differences between Turks and Armenians in a speech in Istanbul, he was swiftly removed from office. On the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, the Turkish government usually has sided with Azerbaijan, particularly during the time of the Azerbaijani Popular Front government in Baku (May 1992-June 1993). Nationalist voices in Turkey have protested Armenian advances against Azerbaijan, and periodically Turkey has prevented Western humanitarian aid from reaching Armenia. Turkish nationalist factions also have accused Armenia of aiding Kurdish rebels in eastern Turkey.
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