US State Department delegation visits Georgia
By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, November 18A US Department of State delegation led by Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Michael Posner held official meetings in Tbilisi on Tuesday as part of the US-Georgian Strategic Partnership Charter. The visit focused on issues of the democratic development of the country, Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze said. “We will discuss what kind of contribution the US can make to the development of democracy in Georgia,” she said.
The US officials also met representatives of Georgian civil society and the Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary opposition early on Tuesday. One of the leaders of the “radical” opposition, Levan Gachechiladze, said that the US is making “the right analysis” of what is going on in Georgia. “The fact that they are meeting us indicates that they are interested in what’s really going on in the country. The USA is not going to carry on living with illusions,” he said.
The democracy working group is trying to determine long-term and short-term objectives in order to create more guarantees of political stability in the country, Giorgi Targamadze, MP from the Christian Democratic movement, said after the meeting with the US delegation at the US Embassy. “We talked about a wide range of problems, from media pluralism to constitutional reforms and business protection,” Targamadze said. “These complex issues create preconditions for developing a stable democracy in Georgia,” he noted, adding that the State Department officials are planning to work with both the Georgian Government and the opposition to resolve these issues.
The opposition hopes the meeting will have specific results, Nino Burjanadze from the Democratic Movement-United Georgia said. “We demanded the naming of specific dates when political prisoners will be freed and when the country will get back to a normal development rhythm. We cannot wait endlessly,” Burjanadze stated.
Representatives of the media and civil society said after their meeting with the US Assistant Secretary of State that the US side had given a “precise diagnosis” of and adopted a “right approach” to civil society issues in Georgia. “They were aware of many things and heard many things from us as well. It was an open dialogue,” editor of the Rezonansi newspaper Lasha Tughushi said. “There were some illusions about the situation in Georgia in terms of democracy, however I can say that after this meeting these illusions don’t exist anymore,” he added.
A significant segment of the US-Georgian Partnership Charter deals with media issues, Erosi Kitsmarishvili from Maestro TV said. “Our country cannot develop only by building bridges. The media should develop and everyone in the US knows this. We hope that with the help of the West our Government will also realise this,” Kitsmarishvili noted.
Shorena Shaverdashvili, Editor-in-Chief of Liberal magazine, said that the US delegation members discussed media issues in Georgia in detail. “I have attended such meetings before, however this meeting was not schematic, like previous ones,” Shaverdashvili said. “They asked us to give them specific recommendations that they would deliver to our Government,” she added.
Later on Tuesday the democracy working group met representatives of the Georgian Government at the State Chancellery. Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria said the main issue discussed at the meeting was mutual cooperation in security and democracy issues. Ruling National Movement MP Akaki Minashvili said that one of the subjects of the meeting was the release of the Georgian teenagers detained in Tskhinvali prisons. “This issue is a problem not only of Georgia but also international organisations, as Russia is ignoring the reiterated calls of these organisations to free the detainees,” Minashvili noted. US delegation members have not made any comments for the media so far.