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The News in Brief

Wednesday, January 23
EC president advises Saakashvili to ensure ‘fairer’ elections in spring

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the EU’s European Commission, sent a letter to President Mikheil Saakashvili congratulating him on his recent reelection, but drawing attention to “challenges” in Georgia’s election conduct.

“Full compliance with democracy, the rule of law and human rights are at the very heart of our bilateral relationship,” his letter reads.

“The events of November 2007 and the recent electoral round has…shown that Georgia still faces formidable challenges to foster a genuine democratic culture in its political body and to achieve a more effective separation of institutional powers.”

“Some of these challenges have been highlighted by the two interim reports of the International Electoral Observation Mission and ODIHR, including a blurred distinction between state administrative resources and electoral campaigning, unbalanced television coverage, problems with the counting and tabulation processes, and the inadequate treatment of appeals by the electoral commissions and by the courts.”

Borroso’s letter expressed confidence that the Saakashvili administration would “draw lessons” from shortcomings in the last election, setting the stage for “fairer and more transparent” parliamentary elections this spring. The European Commission, the letter concluded, is ready to assist Georgia in preparing for its next elections. (Messenger staff)

De facto official: Saakashvili’s promise to return Abkhazia is unrealistic

De facto Abkhaz foreign minister Sergey Shamba said that Mikheil Saakashvili’s pledge to return the breakaway region of Abkhazia to Tbilisi’s control is unrealistic.

“We have long heard promises to return Abkhazia to Georgia, and Saakashvili is not the first to say this…we are accustomed to such statements…[but] Abkhazia and Georgia have separated forever,” Shamba said in an interview with RIA Novosti agency.

He added that Abkhazia would work to improve relations with Georgia only as a neighboring state.

Saakashvili’s comments, he said, “demonstrate once again that there is not an understanding within the Georgian government of what has happened to Georgian-Abkhaz relations.”

Shamba also described Saakashvili’s promise to bring back Georgian churches in Abkhazia under the control of the Georgian Orthodox church as “absurd.”

“Churches situated in Abkhazia cannot be Georgian. The Abkhaz school of Byzantine Church Architecture is well-known in the intellectual circles and Georgia has a completely different church architecture. Abkhaz kings built these churches, who, by the way, also built churches in eastern Georgia. Saakashvili either doesn’t know his history or is deliberately misinterpreting it. Sometimes, his historical knowledge astonishes,” Shamba said.

The de facto official also denied media reports that Tbilisi is having confidential negotiations with Sokhumi. “Abkhazia is in no secret negotiations with Georgia,” Shamba said, adding that talks had been suspended because Georgia had “rudely violated” agreements and would not resume until Tbilisi upheld its side of the bargain.

“We have no contact with the Georgian side as yet. If there are certain situations requiring discussion, we are ready for this,” he said. (Black Sea Press)

Diplomatic corps rotation due 2008

Acting foreign minister Gela Bezhuashvili told journalists yesterday that a planned rotation of the diplomatic corps will be carried out in 2008.

“Ambassadors whose official terms have expired will return to Georgia and new ones appointed in their place. We have vacancies in several foreign countries that need to be filled,” Bezhuashvili stated. (Black Sea Press)

PACE chair says Kosovo should not set a precedent

Luis Maria de Puch, the chair of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), declared that the Kosovo process cannot set a precedent for other separatist regions, during the winter session in Strasburg this week.

“There are no relations between the developments in Kosovo and other parts of Europe,” he said at a January 21 press conference.

“I hope that the situation around Kosovo will be resolved on the ground of a consensus within international law,” he added, according to the news agency News Azerbaijan.

Yesterday the session was scheduled to discuss the future status of Kosovo. (Black Sea Press)

Labor leader may undergo heart operation

Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili will have another examination before doctors decide on a possible operation on his heart, Dr. Anzor Melia told journalists.

Natelashvili was hospitalized shortly after the January 5 presidential election, in which he was a candidate.

The Labor Party press office said that whether Natelashvili receives treatment in Georgia or abroad will depend on the decision of his doctor.

“If the treatment is continued abroad, Natelashvili will receive monetary assistance from Diaspora Georgians residing in Germany and France,” the press center stated. (Black Sea Press)