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Government attacks Georgian Diaspora meeting

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
FRiday, April 16
Vladimir Putin has a new strategic plan to damage Georgia's interests and will try to use Georgian Diaspora representatives to implement it, Minister for Diaspora Issues Papuna Davitaia stated on April 15.

“Aleksandre Ebralidze, a businessman with a criminal past, and his organisation the World Congress of Georgian People, are planning to gather Georgian Diaspora representatives in Saint Petersburg on April 22-23. The plan of Russian Prime Minister Putin is to use these people to undermine the present Georgian Government. The Congress has offered to cover all the expenses of Georgian Diaspora representatives attending this assembly.

"By organising this meeting Russian Special Services wants to make out that a significant number of honourable people in Georgian society oppose the present Government. I can tell them loudly that 99% of the Georgian Diaspora are patriots and will never take part in such meetings. The place where the Georgian Diaspora will consolidate is Georgia, not Russia. Traditionally the day of the Georgian Diaspora is May 27, and on the day the Georgian Government meets Diaspora representatives and discusses problems with them,” the Minister said.

However the Georgian opposition has a different view of this meeting. "Ebralidze is not the only person who will take part in this assembly, there will be many Georgian Diaspora representatives and I think they can play a significant role in the normalisation of Georgian-Russian relations. I am interested in hearing their opinions on the important issues for our country and that is why I plan to attend this meeting myself,” Koba Davitashvili, leader of the People’s Party, stated. Petre Mamradze from the Movement for Fair Georgia, told The Messenger, "There is a fight against Mikheil Saakashvili, meaning a fight for Georgia’s development, and a fight against Georgia's interests. The first of these is absolutely acceptable for us, the second not at all. If such meetings are designed to help restore Georgia's territorial integrity, improve relations with Russia and lead to some other positive steps, I welcome them. We have always stated that without dialogue with the Abkhazian and Ossetian people and Russia the reintegration of our territory is unimaginable. Our foreign allies have frequently said that if there is no contact with the people living in the breakaway regions returning them to Georgia will become jut a dream," Mamradze said.

If such meetings are part of public diplomacy we have nothing against them, Manana Nachkebia from the Alliance for Georgia told The Messenger. "We have always said that the restoration of relations is needed, and if this meeting is part of public diplomacy, and significant issues will be discussed, I can see nothing negative in participating in it. However the restoration of relations depends more on the authorities of the two countries rather than the opposition or Diaspora. If some anti-Georgian issues, like revolution and so on, are discussed this will be unacceptable. It is not right for the Government to make statements about the meeting beforehand and call those people talking to the Russian Government traitors. There are some circumstances in which holding talks with Russia is unacceptable for me, but some form of negotiations are needed,” Nachkebia said.

Some Georgian analysts have frequently said that the opposition is trying to talk to Russia due to the Georgian Government’s inability to do so. Gia Khukhashvili says that "the Georgian Government is trying to divide everyone into two extreme poles - either people are pro-Putin or anti-Putin, and anyone in between is being excluded from the political process. However there is no future in being either pro-Putin or anti-Putin, as both positions arouse public hostility. I therefore think that after the elections many politicians will leave politics. As for relations with Russia, this country expresses as much aggression towards Georgia as the international community will tolerate. However the Georgian Government can also be guilty of aggression, as it was during the August war in 2008. If the Georgian Government does not abandon its present course the West might lose interest in our country,” Khukhashvili said.