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Kristine Aghalaryan

Fishing Rights at Stake: Will Residents or Vardan Ayvazyan Eventually Win?

In the latest development in the ongoing battle by residents of the Armenian populated village of Tabatzghour (in the Samtskhe-Javakhk region of Georgia) to regain fishing rights in a lake now leased to Vardan Ayvazyan (an MP in Armenia’s National Assembly), the Georgian Ministry of the Environment has stepped into the fray and promised them the right to fish once again.

Implementation of the promise has dragged on.

The dispute dates to 2010 when Vardan Ayvazyan’s company Ldjer Ltd. obtained the right to use a lake in the village to farm fish. He banned locals from catching fish in the lake.

In August of this year, tensions flared and Georgian police arrested three Armenian youths who were caught fishing in the lake. Residents then formed a human chain across the road to prevent the three   youths being taken away. The three were later released.

After the incident, the Georgian Deputy Environmental Minister promised residents that he would intervene and resolve the issue in their favor.

The ministry has invited residents on three separate occasions to attend talks designed to reach an agreement.

A village resident told Hetq that the deputy minister told residents that he had spoken with Ayvazyan and urged him not to upset the locals because they were ‘good folk’. Residents were told to come to Tbilisi on October 26 or 27 to sign an agreement.

Villagers now fish the lake. The police tried to prevent them on one occasion, but villagers assemble and argued they had no other means of earning a livelihood.

In the meanwhile, a suit filed by residents in court to have the Georgian government’s lease with Ayvazyan declared null and void continues. In July, the Tbilisi Municipal Court rejected the suit and villagers have appealed.

So far, no court sessions on the appeal have taken place since the attorney for Ayvazyan’s company, Ldjer Ltd., has failed to show up.

Residents say that if the new agreement isn’t in their favor they will continue to battle the issue in the courts.