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Georgian politicians expect Kouchner to deliver “Sarkozy’s messages”

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, July 15
Following the visits of senior European officials earlier this week Tbilisi is now hosting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. He will meet leaders of opposition parties, the President, the Foreign and Refugees Ministers and ruling party MPs.

MP from the Movement for Fair Georgia Petre Mamradze, who is due to meet Kouchner, said yesterday that he is going to ask him to continue assisting Georgia “despite the senseless actions” of President Mikheil Saakashvili. “During the August war and later France and its administration helped Georgia, despite the unwise actions of the Georgian President. We will ask the French Foreign Minister to continue this assistance in future as well,” Mamradze noted.

Some MPs suggested Kouchner might use the visit to outline the results of the recent Sarkozy-Putin meeting. Christian-Democratic Movement MP Levan Vephkhvadze said that Kouchner will bring “Sarkozy’s message” to Tbilisi. "Western policy seems to have two aspects –short term, including restoring economic relations, and long term, meaning the withdrawal of Russian occupation troops from Georgia’s territory,” the MP said. Former UN Ambassador and current leader of opposition party Our Georgia-Free Democrats Irakli Alasania will talk to Kouchner about Georgia’s internal and external policy issues, his press service has reported.

Some opposition politicians have expressed their concern about the “frequent visits” of Foreign Ministers to Georgia. “It was the same two years ago, when the August war started. I hope we will not have new conflicts this year, but clearly there is something going on,” Tina Khidasheli from the Republican Party noted. As for her meeting with Kouchner, Khidasheli said she is planning to talk about the problems of the Georgian population with the French Minister. “Our discussion will depend on what Kouchner is interested in. This could be the constitutional changes, which are very important, or the problems of democracy in Georgia,” she noted.

Georgian Parliament Speaker Davit Bakradze assessed Kouchner’s visit as “important”. “The visits of the Foreign Ministers of our partner states are a clear signal for Russia,” he said. “The message is that Georgia is not a small, abandoned state somewhere in the sphere of influence of Russia, in which Moscow can do whatever it wants,” he added. The Parliament Speaker noted that the visits indicate that Europe and the US “care to support Georgia and its security.” “The visit of Bernard Kouchner to Georgia, who is known as one of the authors of the ceasefire agreement, is very important in this context. He has reiterated a number of times that this agreement has not yet been fulfilled by the Russian Federation, so this issue will be highlighted during his visit most probably,” Bakradze said.

Georgian analysts welcomed the “activation” of the international community's interest in Georgia. Zurab Abashidze suggested that the results of these visits will most probably be seen at the negotiations in Geneva. “It is very good that Georgia is at the centre of the international community’s attention, however the issues important for Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia - are discussed only in the Geneva format, so it is interesting how these visits will influence Russia, whose position at the Geneva talks has not been constructive,” Abashidze noted.