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Foreign diplomats condemn June 12 incident

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, June 15
Foreign diplomats have condemned the June 12 incident outside the Georgian Parliament, calling it a “violent act” and an “assault” on Parliament members. Czech Ambassador Ivan Jestrab was the first to denounce the incident. Shortly after the situation developed outside the Parliament building Jestrab came to the scene, walking up to the upper entrance of Parliament to see the place where a scuffle between opposition activists and Parliament’s security staff had occurred. “It is unacceptable to throw stones at the car of a politician,” the Ambassador said. “Everyone should know that this is a criminal act,” he told journalists on Friday.

The French Ambassador’s statement on the issue, which he read out the following day in Georgian, triggered opposition criticism. “Democracy was insulted”, Eric Fournier said. “Stones were thrown at MPs elected by the people. The Czech Ambassador was also assaulted. We call on all political parties to refrain from provoking violence. We hope that the dialogue started between the opposition and the President will continue. Together with my European colleagues, we are doing everything to support the rule of law and all forms of democracy,” the French Ambassador stated in his televised speech on Saturday.

Opposition leaders, who call the June 12 incident a Government attack on young people’s peaceful protests, have slammed Fournier’s statement for being “one sided”. Tina Khidasheli from the Republican Party said that the French Ambassador’s every word is very important for her but called on him to look at events with “open eyes”. “Maybe the Ambassador is making a preventive statement, but it would be important for me to hear his assessment of the vandalism carried out by the Government, about all the instances in which opposition supporters and activists are being attacked at night,” Khidasheli said.

“It would have been good if the Ambassador’s statement had referred to the detaining and beating up of the demonstrators,” Zurab Abashidze from the Alliance for Georgia has said. “The corridor of shame staged by young opposition activists outside Parliament was followed by the beating up and detaining of those young people, which unfortunately was not reflected in the Ambassador’s statement,” Abashidze noted.

Former Presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze called on the international community and diplomats to “refrain from making provocative statements.” Speaking at the rally in front of Parliament on Saturday, Gachechiladze said diplomats are assessing the situation in Georgia “wrongly”. He suggested to the foreign diplomats that they set up investigative commissions to study the incidents occurring during the demonstrations, to “realistically evaluate the provocations staged by the Government.”

Unlike opposition leaders, ruling party MPs are content with Fournier’s statement. Gigi Tsereteli from the National Movement has said that “probably most representatives of the diplomatic corps think the same way as Eric Fournier.” “I am sure that Mr. Fournier has expressed the opinion of very many Ambassadors and our foreign colleagues. Yesterday’s incident was a very sad page in the history of our modern politics,” Tsereteli said, adding that the incident was a “very bad, uncivilized, unethical and even criminal” way of expressing protest.

The United States Embassy also made a statement on the incident. “The United States condemns the attacks by protesters on Members of Parliament, including the Speaker, on June 12 and regrets the decision of some protest leaders to endorse these assaults on both people and property,” the statement posted on US Embassy website reads. “These actions undermine the protest leaders' prior statements calling for non-violent action. These attacks both interfered with official activities and crossed the line between free expression of opinion and criminal activity. We ask all those who support a wider political dialogue and responsible governance to condemn these attacks and urge the leaders of the protest actions to stop these attacks immediately. The United States calls on both the Government and the leaders of the non-Parliamentary opposition to reengage in constructive talks and dialogue without delay,” it continues.

The EU Special Representative in the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, who is actively involved in the resolution of the two-month long political crisis in Georgia, has also reacted. The EU envoy has once more called for dialogue, saying it is the “main key” for calming the situation. In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Semneby said that opposition leaders should explain to their supporters that such actions are “unacceptable”. Meanwhile, Semneby advised both sides to take more responsibility for their own actions.

“This comment refers to the Government too, in the context that, in the situation in which Georgia is right now, the detention of the opposition activists might make the political process, as well as the possibility of dialogue, more complicated,” FRERL quoted Semneby as saying. Semneby said some of the people involved in the incident should be punished, however the EU envoy said there is a need for “restraint” and “forgiveness” from the Government. According to Semneby there were some instances of beating up opposition activists, which should be followed by an “adequate reaction” from the Government.

Political analysts say violence is unacceptable “no matter from which side it comes.” Political commentator and former Ambassador to Russia Zurab Abashidze has said the opposition should disassociate themselves from any kind of violent actions, saying that “with violence the opposition will lose more than they gain.” As for the mood among foreign diplomats accredited in Georgia, Abashidze said they are making statements “very carefully, based on their values and principles.” “I have talked to the representatives of the diplomatic corps in Tbilisi. When the opposition holds peaceful demonstrations, like the one on May 26, the diplomats give positive assessments of them. Some of them are even surprised to see the opposition organise such a big and peaceful demonstration. However, when there is violence the assessment is negative. I repeat, the opposition should distance themselves from violent acts, because violence breeds more violence,” Abashidze told The Messenger.