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The News in Brief

Tuesday, February 12

Saakashvili to join informal Moscow meeting of CIS heads of state

President Mikheil Saakashvili will participate in an informal meeting of heads of CIS states in Moscow on February 22.

The meeting will be hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin; Saakashvili, while at a security conference in Munich, expressed his readiness to meet with Putin. (Prime News)

Ivanov: Russia cannot veto NATO’s decision on Georgian membership

Russian first deputy prime minister Sergey Ivanov, speaking at a press conference in Munich on February 10, said that Russia cannot veto a NATO decision to extend membership to Georgia and Ukraine, but that the membership aspirations of those two countries make no sense to Moscow.

“[NATO accession] is the business of those two countries, which Russia cannot veto,” he said. “However, I would like to ask them what are the goals of [Ukraine and Georgia] while trying to join the alliance? Are they expecting an assault from Russia? Of course not. Therefore, we see no reason for those two countries to join NATO.” (Prime News)

Patriarch says the Church does not endorse political parties

Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II stated on February 11 that the Orthodox Church does not endorse any political parties.

“In recent days the opinion has been spread that the Church supports and patronizes some political parties, and this does not correspond to reality,” Ilia II said, while presenting a new “National Christian” movement.

“The Church defends our national and Christian values, and we do everything possible to unite our nation and bring our people into solidarity,” he said.

The announcement came shortly after the Patriarch blessed the emblems of the newly-formed Christian Democratic Party, prompting speculation that the Church’s leader was implicitly endorsing a political force. (Black Sea Press)

Foreign minister leaving for BSEC conference

Foreign Minister Davit Bakradze is to leave for Kiev tomorrow, where he will join a meeting of foreign ministers from member-countries of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) and representatives of the EU.

He will meet with the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Romania and Moldova.

Over the two-day conference, participants will discuss cooperation in the areas of transport, energy, trade and fighting organized crime. (Black Sea Press)

Georgia denies Russian claim of militants in Pankisi

On February 9 the Georgian border police released a statement countering Russian suggestions that militants may be present in Pankisi Gorge.

Anatoli Zabrodin, who heads the Russian border department, recently said they suspect militants could be filtering into Russia from Georgia via the Pankisi Gorge, according to the news agency RIA Novosti.

“The Border Service of Georgia denies suggestions that militants are based in Pankisi Gorge,” the statement reads, continuing, “The issue has never been brought up at the regular meetings between representatives of border guards of the two countries, the last being in December [2007].”

The statement adds that according to procedure, both sides must exchange information regularly. “The Border Service hopes that in future, cooperation with the border department of Russia will continue on this basis,” it reads.

Chair of the parliamentary committee on foreign relations Konstantin Gabashvili said that Zabrodin’s statement was “made to justify the reinforcement Russia’s military presence in the North Caucasus near to the Georgian border.”

The Pankisi Gorge was formally a haven for Chechen militants but according to the Georgian government a 2001 military operation forced militants out and brought the situation under control. (Black Sea Press)

Saakashvili does not say whether Georgia will recognize Kosovo

President Mikheil Saakashvili dodged a question posed by a Russian journalist at a security conference in Munich on whether Georgia would recognize Kosovo or not, according to the news agency RIA Novosti.

“Much will depend on the fact whether Russia will support separatists [Abkhazia and South Ossetia] when Kosovo proclaims its independence,” Saakashvili said, saying that it doesn’t matter whether Tbilisi supports or opposes Kosovo independence.

“We are ready for the peaceful European settlement of this [Kosovo] conflict,” he added. (Black Sea Press)