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The News in Brief

Monday, February 4

Department on Russian issues to be established under Foreign Ministry

A department dealing with Russian issues will be established at the Foreign Ministry, President Mikheil Saakashvili announced when officially presenting the new foreign minister, Davit Bakradze, on February 1.

“The department will work on improving relations with Russia,” Saakashvili said, adding, “An experienced official will be appointed as head of that department, who will be able to work productively and successfully towards patching up Georgian-Russian relations.”

Saakashvili also presented new deputy Foreign Minister Gia Vashadze, and said he had the right experience to deal with the Russia issue, having formerly held top positions in the Soviet Foreign Ministry until 1988.

“He is familiar with the policies of our traditional and key partner, Russia, and I want him to work in this area,” he said. (Prime News)

EU delegation visits Tbilisi

An EU delegation is scheduled to arrive in Georgia today for a two-day visit. It will include Slovenian Foreign Minister Dmitrij Rupel, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and EU Special Representative for South Caucasus Peter Semneby.

The delegation will discuss the implementation of the EU-Georgia ENP Action Plan, as well as a number of other issues. (Prime News)

Young activists protest privatization of Georgian Railways

Around 50 youth activists from the People’s Party staged a rally on February 1 outside the Ministry of Economic Development in protest of the possible privatization of Georgian Railways.

They warned that Russia is interested in purchasing the railway network and demanded that the asset not be auctioned. (Prime News)

US senator supports NATO MAP for Georgia

Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate foreign relations committee, submitted a resolution to the US Senate that calls for NATO Membership Action Plans (MAP) to be presented to Georgia and Ukraine at the upcoming NATO Bucharest summit in April.

“The leaders of Georgia and Ukraine have clearly stated their desire to join the NATO and both have made remarkable progress towards meeting NATO standards,” Senator Lugar said.

He also said that both countries have much more to do before they are offered membership of the alliance.

“MAP participation does not guarantee future membership,” he stated.

“Potential NATO membership motivates emerging democracies to make important advances in areas such as the rule of law and civil society. A closer relationship with NATO will promote these values and contribute to our mutual security,” he added. (Prime News)

Saakashvili: recognition of Kosovo could pose problems for Georgia

The recognition of Kosovo’s independence will bring a “serious storm” towards Georgia, President Mikheil Saakashvili said on February 1.

“We must understand that this is a complicated time for Georgia, from the foreign political situation. In the coming weeks, or possibly even days, the West is likely to recognize Kosovo,” he said, adding, “Our country will face a very serious storm. But our country, if we work well, will avoid any storms.” (Black Sea Press)

Russian Foreign Ministry: Moscow will continue to pursue better relations with Georgia

Moscow will continue to pursue better relations with Tbilisi, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, following a conversation between newly-appointed Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Bakradze and Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

“Sergey Lavrov congratulated the Georgian Foreign Minister on his appointment and confirmed that Russia intends to work to improve relations with Georgia,” the statement reads.

“Having emphasized importance of good neighborly relations with Russia, Bakradze recognized that establishing contact with the Russian Foreign Ministry was a priority in his new role,” the statement continues.

Saakashvili promises to fix water supply for dry villages

President Mikheil Saakashvili promised residents of the village of Sakara in western Georgia on February 2 that their water supply will soon be restored.

He visited the town of Chiatura with State Minister for Regional Issues Davit Tkeshelashvili to discuss the water issue with local authorities, setting them a two-week deadline to fix the problem.

He discussed other social problems with local residents, including unemployment and problems with the local natural gas supply. (Black Sea Press)

Hostage released

Dato Nadaria, a 24-year-old Gali resident taken hostage last week, has been released after his family reportedly paid the hostage-takers a GEL 30 000 ransom demand.

Nadaria was abducted on January 28 by a gang of armed assailants who broke into his family’s residence, demanding jewelry and cash. (Rustavi 2)

Gelbakhiani sentenced to pre-trial detention in absentia

On February 2, Tbilisi City Court sentenced former MP Valeri Gelbakhiani, in absentia, to two months’ pre-trial detention.

Gelbakhiani’s lawyer, Shalva Khachapuridze, said the judge’s decision is groundless and politically motivated.

A prosecutor said that Gelbakhiani refused numerous demands to cooperate with authorities, and noted that Gelbakhiani, who is thought to be out of the country, would be declared a fugitive in a few days.

Gelbakhiani is charged with conspiring to overthrow the government in a plot allegedly organized by the billionaire former presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili. (Black Sea Press)