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Opinions vary on French trip

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, June 10
The French Foreign Ministry has commented on a Georgian delegation’s visit to France on June 8, reaffirming France’s support for Georgia.

“France reaffirms its support for the continuation of the discussions in Geneva and its commitment to respect the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia within its internationally recognised boundaries. The visit is a good opportunity to reaffirm our support for Georgia and strengthen French-Georgian relations, which are diverse, and include cooperation in Homeland Security and 172 Georgian soldiers serving under French command in Afghanistan,” the French Foreign Ministry statement said.

After meeting his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris President Saakashvili met Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and some other leading French politicians. It was announced after this meeting that the French Foreign Minister will visit Georgia in July. Saakashvili also held a meeting with political analysts and academics and delivered a special report entitled Georgia - laboratory for democratic reforms in the post-Soviet space, at the Institute of Political Science on June 9.

Saakashvili underlined Georgia’s post-Soviet legacy and the reforms carried out in the country in recent years. He talked about the tolerant environment created for ethnic minorities in Georgia and the local elections held on May 30. "Despite the fact that the tanks of the invaders are 32 kilometres from our capital I have come here to deliver a message of hope. The European and Euro Atlantic model is very attractive for Georgia; this is the model which guides us towards social, economic and political transformation. If our big neighbour allows us to adopt this model Georgia will be the best example of it,” the President stated. He added that after the Russian aggression holding free and democratic elections in the country had taken on very serious importance and Georgia has passed this exam successfully. "The 2010 local elections were very important, as they were the first since Russia’s invasion. The election demonstrated people’s confidence in, and support for, the reforms being carried out in the country. The process was held in a transparent and civilized way,” Saakashvili stated.

After his official meetings Mikheil Saakashvili attended the Georgian Cultural Days at the Pierre Cardin Centre. The world-famous designer personally hosted the Georgian President and First Lady. Nino Kirtadze's film A Little About Georgia was also presented in the French capital. The film depicts Europe's reaction to the August 2008 war and the Georgian President’s working environment during it.

Georgian analysts raise questions about Saakashvili’s French trip. "It was not a good sign that no common briefing by the two Presidents was held after their meeting. The results of this meeting will be revealed a bit later. If Russia does not change its rhetoric towards Georgia after the Sarkozy- Saakashvili meeting we can consider this a wasted trip,” Gia Khukhashvili said. However Nika Chitadze told The Messenger, "I do not agree that these meetings were only held in order to show that Georgia is not in political or economic isolation. We were not in isolation to begin with, this is a known fact. We still have working relations with NATO and the European Union and the West and the United States are also expressing in interest in Georgian issues. If the French side had not been interested in holding this meeting, the Georgian delegation would not have gone to France.

"One very important thing was said after the Presidents’ meeting: that negotiations will start between the EU and Georgia about Georgia becoming an Associate Member of the European Union. Relations with France are profitable for us not only from the political viewpoint but for economic and social reasons as well,” Chitadze said. He added that "France is trying to act as mediator between Russia and Georgia again to ensure that the ceasefire agreement is fulfilled. In my opinion this is one of the main reasons the French side wanted to hold this meeting," Chitadze said.

Saakashvili concluded his official meetings in France on June 9.