PM says Akhalaia has got a “difficult Ministry”
By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, September 3Newly-appointed Minister of Defence Bacho Akhalaia attended his first Government session in this capacity on Wednesday. Prime Minister Nika Gilauri greeted Akhalaia in his opening remarks. “Akhalaia has got a very difficult Ministry,” the Prime Minister said. “He has worked quite successfully in his previous positions and I think he will deal with his new post successfully,” Gilauri added.
All four Deputy Ministers of Defence, Vladimer Chachibaia, Gela Berdzenishvili, Giorgi Muchaidze and Otar Berdzenishvili, have resigned from their posts. However the Press Service of the Ministry of Defence says this is “standard procedure” when a new Minister is appointed. “All the Deputy Ministers are fulfilling their duties despite their formal resignations,” the Defence Ministry Press Service stated. It was initially reported that the Deputy Ministers had resigned in protest at Akhalaia’s appointment.
Salome Makharadze, head of the Defence Ministry Press Service, has told journalists that Akhalaia has not appointed new deputies as yet. However information agency Newsgeorgia has written that according to Defence Ministry officials some personnel changes are planned. “If there are any new appointments, they will be made public in the next couple of days,” Newsgeorgia quoted a Defence Ministry source as saying. First Deputy Defence Minister Vladimer Chachibaia has neither confirmed nor denied his resignation, saying that he is not “willing to comment on the issue at present”. According to the Georgian media, Chachibaia resigned due to a “confrontation” with new Defence Minister Akhalaia.
Bacho Akhalaia was appointed Defence Minister on August 27, replacing former Georgian Ambassador to the US David Sikharulidze. The Georgian opposition and human rights groups called his appointment as “one of the most dangerous decisions” yet made and an “irresponsible action” by President Saakashvili. When making the appointment the President praised Akhalaia’s achievements as Head of the Penitentiary Department at the Ministry of Justice, particularly his success in combating so called “thieves-in-law”.
Akhalaia has said that enhancing Georgia’s defence potential to “maintain peace” in the country will be one of his priorities as Minister. He also cited promoting Georgia’s NATO integration as a priority, adding that the Georgian Government will continue to pursue its policy in this direction “in order to offer the Alliance armed forces which would be a serious benefit for this organisation and not a burden.”