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Biden meets opposition

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, July 24
US Vice President Joseph Biden has met Georgian opposition politicians as part of his two day visit to Georgia. The meeting took place at the Tbilisi Marriot Hotel on July 23. The leader of the Christian Democratic Party, Giorgi Targamadze MP, the former Parliamentary Speaker and now the leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia Nino Burjanadze, Georgia’s former UN Ambassador and now leader of Our Georgia-Free Democrats Irakli Alasania and individual opposition politician Levan Gachechiladze attended the meeting with the US Vice President.

The opposition leaders assessed the meeting as “very interesting” and “very important.” They said the discussion had focused on Georgia’s internal politics and national security issues; however they refrained from revealing details of the meeting. “We agreed not to speak about the details of the meeting openly, but generally it was demonstrated that the US is not personalising its policy, it supports the development of democratic institutions and it considers that Georgia is a leading country in this region in terms of democratic development,” MP Giorgi Targamadze said. “We therefore bear a double responsibility, first to our own people and their future and then to the region as a whole. We talked about specific problems in specific institutions, from the election environment ending to the distribution of power in the Government and we gave him very detailed information on these issues,” he added.

According to Targamadze the US reiterated its support for Georgia. “It was mentioned at the meeting that the USA supports Georgia’s territorial integrity and will never abandon Georgia and its fight for freedom and independence. Democracy is the main factor that should be developed first of all, on the one hand to strengthen our statehood and on the other hand to get more support from the free world,” Targamadze told journalists after the meeting, adding that he had handed Biden a letter from Georgian journalists and media outlets.

Irakli Alasania said the meeting was very “serious”. “We had a very sincere talk about the internal problems of Georgia, and generally about security issues. We received a specific promise from the US administration and the Vice President that the development of democratic reforms in Georgia will be a main determiner of future US-Georgian relations,” Alasania noted. “Of course these relations will be directed towards overcoming foreign threats, but mainly our mutual strategic cooperation will be based on what kind of progress Georgia will make in terms of democratic reforms. The support of the US administration on this issue was very firm and I think it is very important for the Georgian people,” he added.

As for early elections, Alasania said Biden’s position was that “the political calendar should only be set by Georgian citizens.” “It was said that the US will never interfere in the internal politics of Georgia, including the political calendar. But the main thing is that the US administration expressed firm support for the democratic reforms that should be carried out in Georgia. And it is crucial that US-Georgian relations are based on these principles. If we want to be real partners of the Western world, we should become a democratic state,” Alasania said.

Levan Gachechiladze also stressed that the US position is not to interfere in Georgian internal affairs. “There were two interesting aspects stressed at the meeting. One that it is only up to the Georgian people to decide who will be the President of Georgia and when the elections would be held. The second is that if there are no steps taken towards democracy and human rights protection, there will be no support from the US. The internal affairs of Georgia are 100 percent the prerogative of Georgian citizens, this was stated very clearly,” Gachechiladze noted.

Former Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze thanked the US Vice President for a “sincere and open” talk. “I want to stress that no recommendations were delivered and it underlines the fact that the US is really a democratic state and friend of Georgia. The US Vice President stated that elections and related issues are the things that should be decided by Georgian citizens and the US is not going to interfere in the internal politics of Georgia,” Burjanadze stated after the meeting.

Political analysts say it would be a mistake to expect that the US Vice President would interfere in the internal politics of Georgia or criticize Saakashvili. Independent political expert Shalva Pichkhadze said the US administration has expressed its support for the policy of Georgia, and “this means support for the Government also. Only people who don’t know the USA or the basics of diplomacy would think that Biden would criticize the Georgian President. The US supported the general policy and aspirations of Georgia and thus supported the ruling administration,” Pichkhadze told The Messenger.