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Opposition tell diplomats there is no sense in holding negotiations yet

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, May 15
The Georgian opposition, who have been rallying against President Mikheil Saakashvili for more than a month, say continuing to negotiate with the President will make sense only if “our opponent becomes adequate.” This statement was made before radical opposition leaders Irakli Alasania, Salome Zourabichvili, David Usupashvili and Nino Burjanadze met a group of foreign diplomats accredited in Georgia. Prior to the meeting David Usupashvili from the Republican Party added that it is very important to inform the diplomatic corps “why the five-point plan proposed by Saakashvili lacks any content and is only PR.”

After the meeting, which lasted about two hours, the leader of the Alliance for Georgia, Irakli Alasania said the Ambassadors support the idea of continuing the negotiations. “We explained to them what our vision about the possibility of carrying on the negotiations is and why we consider that the President is inadequate to the demands of society,” Alasania noted. He added that the diplomats are ready to work out a special mechanism for monitoring dialogue between the Government and the opposition if it takes place.

Former Parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze said the diplomatic corps had “absolutely different” information about the meeting between the President and the opposition than that which the opposition gave. She said she outlined for them the opposition’s strategy and tactics. “I explained why Saakashvili’s resignation is necessary for overcoming the crisis. I understand that stability is very important, but not ostentatious stability, which hinders the country’s democratic development,” Burjanadze said.

British Ambassador Denis Keefe said the aim of the meeting between the diplomats and opposition was to obtain information about the negotiations between the opposition and the President. “The way out of the current political situation is to conduct peaceful dialogue. These kinds of meetings are very important,” Keefe noted.

Salome Zourabichvili from the Way of Georgia accused the authorities of “spreading disinformation” after the meeting with diplomats. Zourabichvili alleged that Saakashvili had accused her of staging a riot in the women’s prison and reported this to foreign diplomats. Zourabichvili said she had checked this with the US Ambassador and received confirmation that he had been told this by the Government. Zourabichvili said President Saakashvili had accused her of being an agent of the Russian Intelligence Service. Zourabichvili called on the Government to immediately present evidence to support its accusations or “stop spreading gossip.” US Ambassador John Tefft made no comment on Zourabichvili’s statement, saying that diplomats do not interfere in these sort of issues.

Parliament Speaker David Bakradze has said Zourabichvili’s statement was “not serious.” He said that during recent years an “interesting scheme” of relations has been established between him and the leader of the Way of Georgia. “Zourabichvili used to say that the Government thinks she is involved in corruption, so I stated that Zourabichvili is not involved in corruption and we are not going to arrest her. Now she wants to find out that the Government does not consider her an Intelligence Service agent,” Bakradze said. “If the opposition are feeding their voters with these rumours, this is a very bad sign for them,” he stated.

Bakradze commented on the opposition’s claims that the President’s proposals at his meeting with them were “inadequate”. “The Government’s proposals serve the interests of the Georgian state and are not made for the purpose of gaining an assessment, as either adequate or inadequate,” Bakradze stated. “Regardless of the opposition’s view of the proposals, the constitutional and electoral reforms will be carried out anyway because this is good for the country. It will be good if opposition participates in this process, or at least part of the opposition.”

Meanwhile the opposition has delayed unblocking the area of Kostava Street in front of the Georgian Public Broadcaster building. Some opposition activists have expressed their discontent about the possible unblocking of the road. After several consultations between the residents and the opposition, a decision has been taken to leave the street blocked. One of the leaders of the opposition Levan Gachechiladze said they should “take the mood of society into consideration.” Another opposition activist, Goga Khaindrava, said “the opposition will do what people think” they should do.

The unblocking of Kostava Street was initiated by the leader of the Alliance for Georgia, Georgia’s former UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania, on May 13. He said it was a “sign of goodwill” from the opposition. Other opposition leaders agreed, saying that “ordinary citizens had been experiencing discomfort because of the blocked road, not the Government.” The opposition leaders still confirm that Kostava Street will be unblocked; but they are not giving an exact date.