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EU ready to prepare ground for dialogue

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, April 17
The EU is ready to mediate talks between the Georgian Government and the opposition, opposition leaders said after a meeting with EU Special Representative in the South Caucasus Peter Semneby on Thursday. The EU official had met the opposition leaders separately in Tbilisi Marriott Hotel to discuss the possibility of preparing a meeting between the authorities and the opposition.

Most of the radical opposition have expressed a readiness to meet Saakashvili, however contradictory statements are being made about the agenda they will insist upon at any talks. The leader of the Alliance for Georgia, Georgia’s former UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania, has said the opposition is ready to discuss only one issue – the resignation of President Saakashvili, which according to Alasania “is the demand of Georgian society.” “However, we are ready to hear the authorities’ view on the way out of this situation,” Alasania told journalists after the meeting with Peter Semneby.

David Usupashvili, the leader of the Republican Party, which is part of the Alliance for Georgia, reiterated that the only demand on the agenda is the resignation of the President. “We see his resignation as the only solution to the current crisis, however we are ready to see what the Government might propose to us and then tell the public about it. We will then ask the people whether the authorities’ arguments are acceptable for them,” Usupashvili noted, adding that not everyone in the opposition supports the idea of starting such a dialogue but everyone he himself has consulted does.

Salome Zourabichvili of the Way of Georgia said that the Government’s “trick” of conducting separate meetings between the various opposition leaders and the EU Special Representative had failed. “The opposition is united, we continue to hold the position that we will speak to Saakashvili publicly with only one demand – Saakashvili’s resignation,” Zourabichvili stated.

The leaders of the Conservative Party also reiterated that the “opposition is united around one position.” Zviad Dzidziguri said “the opposition has only one mandate from the people, and it is to demand the resignation of Saakashvili.” Kakha Kukava, his co-leader, said that claims that the opposition is divided are “not true.” “The wording might be different, but the demand and the position is one. The negotiations should be public,” Kukava noted. The Conservatives also expressed their discontent about the format of the meetings with Semneby.

“The demonstrations should engender a real political process,” Semneby said on Thursday. He noted that the Easter celebrations will give all parties a “time out” which will enable the opposition and the Government to clarify their positions. According to Semneby society should use this time to draw conclusions about the ongoing processes.

While the non-Parliamentary opposition insists on the resignation of the President, some Parliamentary opposition members say the idea of Saakashvili’s resignation is “irrational.” Christian Democrat MP Giorgi Targamadze said on April 15 that the situation might turn dangerous if the opposition takes more radical steps. He said that such a scenario would favour the authorities as it may give them an excuse to take action against the opposition. “This is the way which makes the opposition weak and strengthens Saakashvili,” Targamadze said on the Public Broadcaster’s weekly programme Accents on Wednesday.

The Government might make serious compromises if the opposition agrees to start a dialogue, some analysts suggest. According to independent political commentator Ramaz Sakvarelidze, dialogue between the conflicting sides could “soften” the political situation in the country. He suggested that the Government might agree to hold Parliamentary elections. “It seems like the Government is going to make serious compromises, on things other than the resignation of the President,” Sakvarelidze noted. “After the picketing of official buildings and protest rallies, the Government has probably worked out different options for compromise, but this does not mean that they are ready to reform the Central Election Commission and the law enforcement agencies, as they still have elections to win,” he added.

Despite the possibility of talks with the Government, the opposition has announced the start of a “second wave” of demonstrations from April 21, which, according to the “radical” leaders, will be “much stronger and larger scale.” Speaking in front of Parliament on Thursday, David Berdzenishvili from the Republican Party said that opposition supporters would be brought in from the regions of Georgia in order “to free the country from its criminal Government.”