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Compiled by Liana Bezhanishvili
Thursday, March 4
Saakashvili’s strange and secret visit to Turkey

Rezonansi writes that according to the Turkish media Mikheil Saakashvili suddenly visited Istanbul on Monday. He met local businessmen there and after two hours returned to Georgia. The President’s Press Service and the Foreign Ministry have neither confirmed nor denied this report.

“I do not know about this so I cannot comment on it. I can say that President Mikheil Saakashvili was in Batumi yesterday. You might know that the Armenian President is visiting there. I cannot tell you anything more about this,” stated Head of the President’s Press Service Alana Gagloeva. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also stated that it do not know anything about this visit and cannot confirm it.

As Tbilisi officially knows nothing of the President’s visit to Istanbul no one knows what it sought to achieve either. The Turkish media says that Saakashvili visited Turkey after meeting Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian in Batumi, going straight to the Georgian Consulate where he met the businessmen. It is known a representative of the Anadolu Group, which has invested in the Georgian power sphere, was at this meeting. Turkish journalists gathered in front of the Georgian Consulate when they heard Saakashvili was there but Consular officials demanded that they leave and not record anything. The local journalists say that only a Consulate representative and Istanbul Governor’s Assistant Akhmed Aidin met Mikheil Saakashvili at Istanbul Airport.

“It is difficult for me to make any comment on this information. Maybe he met the businessmen but unfortunately the President did not have an official meeting, only a private one. This is very bad practice because there is no relevant protocol which would cover this strange visit. The Turkish Government is not taking the Georgian President seriously any more,” says economic analyst Gia Khukhashvili.

Call to help pensioners outside Tbilisi too

Sakartvelos Respublika reports that on 1 March the Mayor’s initiative to increase the pension for Tbilisi residents by about 10 GEL and give them 25 GEL medicine vouchers and preferential public transport rates came into force. This initiative is clearly an election PR stunt, the newspaper says, because only Tbilisi pensioners are affected and only Tbilisi is directly electing its Mayor. This programme is also being financed from the central budget, not the Tbilisi municipal budget.

On Tuesday Deputy Chair of the Movement for Fair Georgia Levan Roinishvili dedicated a press conference to the theme of pensions. He said that the Government is discriminating against residents of the regions by increasing pensions and giving other benefits to Tbilisi residents alone. He said that this is election PR and therefore the ruling party is breaking the election law.

"The ruling party is preparing for the next Presidential elections and its candidate will be Mayor Gigi Ugulava. The implied campaign slogan is: If you want the same attention Tbilisi pensioners get you must vote for Gigi Ugulava for President. This is the main reason for the discrimination against regional pensioners. We demand that these new privileges be given to pensioners throughout Georgia," said Levan Roinishvili.