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Politicians on Tour in Georgia

By Salome Modebadze
Tuesday, September 7
The Georgian Opposition representatives met with the US Congress Delegation at the Tbilisi Marriott Hotel to discuss bilateral relations, Georgia’s participation in the mission in Afghanistan, ongoing political and economic reforms in Georgia and the support of the United States for these reforms on September 6. The meeting was chaired by Jim Marshall US Congressman from the state of Georgia State. Also attending were Charles Dent, Congressman from Pennsylvania; Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis representing Wyoming; State Congresswoman Jane Harman representing California; and Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont State.

“The five-member delegation of US Congressmen have an important role in solving global security issues, thus the main subject of discussions at the meeting will probably be the situation in the Caucasus and in particular, Georgia,” Davit Usupashvili, the leader of the Republic Party shared with the media. “Georgia should decide in the nearest decade whether it is really following democratic values which are so important for the civilized West or it will remain in the list of undesirable partners. That’s why it is so crucial that the US Congressmen should be aware of the Georgian political spectrum’s approach towards this very issue,” Giorgi Targamadze, the leader of Christian-Democratic Party added.

Aleksi Petriashvili from Our Georgia – Free Democrats highlighted the security issues in Georgia. He later told the media the US Congressmen seem to be against matching the State Constitution to one particular person or party. “Following the opinions expressed about the constitutional changes by Our Georgia – Free Democrats, the foreign guests said that they are interested in the issue and will start to constantly monitor,” Petriashvili said after the meeting adding that the US Congressmen also paid attention to security issues and the mechanisms for avoiding further events like the August War with Russia in 2008.

Later in the evening the Chairman of Georgian Parliament Davit Bakradze also hosted the US Congressional Representatives. Reporting the details of the meeting to media, Bakradze said that the situation in occupied territories and the ongoing reforms in Georgia were the main issues discussed by the sides. “We discussed in details the ongoing reforms, constitutional reform; we spoke about economic reform, economic policy and situation in general. We also reported the situation in the occupied territories and you know that out key demand and priority is to urge the US Congress and other legislative organs to legalize the term occupation,” Bakradze told the media.

Meanwhile another delegation of former political leaders arrived to Batumi on the Silver Wind liner at 5 a.m. September 6 to participate in the international symposium of world leaders on the same day. The delegation of former American senators and political experts is on a tour to become familiar with the development of democracy in the former Soviet Union and in particular to see Georgia, with its UNESCO protected world heritage monuments. The foreign guests will study the current political and social situations in Georgia, how the country is developing and what the Government is doing to carry out more democratic reforms.

Former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was among the 131 former politicians, who arrived in Batumi as part of the international symposium organised by World Leaders’ Travel. The former leaders’ tour is part of the 5th World Leaders symposium with young leader delegates from Georgia, Turkey, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. The tour started in Russia on August 30 will end in Istanbul on September 15.

The American delegation members were all pleased by their visit to Georgia saying they wanted to see the places of interest within the state which they had heard from the former Secretary of State during private conversations or public speeches. “We have come here to hear the views of different political circles about the situation in Georgia. We are doing a great and important thing together by sending troops to Afghanistan for which we are all so obliged and grateful to the Georgian Government, Georgian people and the Georgian statehood,” Charles Dent, Republican Congressman from the Pennsylvania State commented to the Georgian media.

According to the information released by Caucasus Travel, the tourist company responsible for the foreign guests’ safety, the former world leaders will be divided into five groups. “Around 120-140 people are coming to Tbilisi to hold talks with political figures as well as see all the cultural and religious sights of interest in the capital,” Caucasus Travel told the media, adding that Condoleezza Rice would not visit Tbilisi as she had already left for Dublin.

However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia denied rumours about Rice’s departure. According to information released by Nino Kalandadze, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs the former world leaders are in Georgia as part of a study tour – to see places of interest in Georgia and become familiar with the region, which is why meetings are not being held with the Georgian Government.

The liner which had arrived in Batumi from Turkey will move to Sochi on September 7, where the former president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev will join the international symposium. Analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili gave his opinion about the former world leaders’ visit to Georgia. “The absence of some politicians … is a sign of attitude towards the United National Movement in our country. Rice seems to have satisfied all her interests towards Georgia in August 2008, thus she had no reason to meet Saakashvili. As for Gorbachev, he would certainly have been treated as a representative of the occupying country rather than a historical figure,” Tsiskarishvili told us.

“The number of guests being less than expected, shows that those former leaders are impartial to Saakashvili’s policy, hence I don’t wonder why there have been no official meetings planned with the Government. But if there will still be some consultations arranged at the Presidential Palace in Avlabari, they will be completely familiar to the wide range of the audience attending the meetings,” the analyst said adding that the former world leaders visiting Georgia have been “ambassadors of peace” trying to stabilise relations among the states.