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Saakashvili’s reshuffle from Lisbon

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, November 22
Reshuffles have been carried out in the Government and National Security Council of Georgia (NSC) according to President Mikheil Saakashvili’s decree released on November 20. Former First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Giga Bokeria has been appointed to the position of Secretary of NSC replacing of Eka Tkeshelashvili, who has been given the post of Vice Prime Minister and will replace the State Minister for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili. The President presented Iakobashvili’s candidacy to Parliament thus it is expected he will return to a diplomatic career and serve as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States, while Batu Kutelia the acting Ambassador to US will become the Deputy Secretary of the NSC.

Giga Bokeria who was an active member of both Parliament and the Government of Georgia will now be Saakashvili’s adviser on national security issues. As First Deputy Foreign Minister, Bokeria was Georgia’s chief negotiator in the Geneva talks. The next round of discussions is scheduled for December 16; thus the role of chief negotiator will most likely be transferred to someone else. The staff changes, which had been a subject of debate among the Georgian media, were carried out during Saakashvili’s visit to Lisbon for the NATO Summit; Bokeria and Iakobashvili were among those accompanying the President.

“It is a great responsibility for me to take the new position. My predecessors have done a lot to define the particular priorities in national security issues important for our country. So I have a wonderful starting position and I will try to continue and improve upon the results within the system,” Bokeria told Rustavi 2 straight from Lisbon.

In his first comment on the Government reshuffle, Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigol Vashadze regretted the changes stressing that Giga Bokeria had been playing an important role within the Ministry. “I’m really sorry that Giga is leaving the Ministry but I’m sure he will significantly increase the importance of NSC,” Vashadze told Rustavi 2 refraining from naming the new deputy Foreign Minister who will probably lead the Geneva talks, successfully started by Bokeria.

Serving as Georgia’s Foreign Minister in 2008, Eka Tkeshelashvili has held a number of senior Governmental positions since 2004, including Deputy Interior and Deputy Justice Ministers, as well as Chairperson of the Court of Appeals and Chief Prosecutor. Now the newly appointed State Minister for Reintegration will be in charge of implementation of the state strategy on occupied territories, developed during Iakobashvili’s tenure in the post. “Today we have a decisive phase in forming our state policy – steps have to be made to encourage the reintegration process aimed at de-occupying the Georgian breakaway territories,” Tkeshelashvili told the media.

International affairs analyst, Giorgi Volski has found some logic in the Government reshuffle but doubts the efficiency of the newly appointed officials in their new posts. The unconstructive policy of Temur Iakobahsvili, according to Volski, was among the reasons of the processes developed in August 2008, later followed by the abolition of the UN and OSCE Missions in so-called South Ossetia.

Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze thinks that the Government reshuffle is aimed at strengthening both the internal and foreign policies of the country. Talking on Iakobashvili’s experience in diplomacy, Sakvarelidze stressed that he would completely strengthen the US “front” as Ambassador to the US. “Iakobashvili has been an extremely interesting figure both for the Georgian public and international partners – he prepared the Strategy on Occupied Territories so well that none of the documents can surpass it,” said the analyst.

“Eka Tkeshelashvili will not find it difficult to work on reintegration issues, because Iakobashvili has already worked out the ideas and no further creative steps need to be done,” Sakvarelidze told the media stressing Bokeria’s appointment as the Secretary of NSC was significant. And according to the analyst it will be followed by decisive steps on the internal security of the country. ”

Bokeria, Iakobashvili, Tkeshelashvili and Kutelia will start their new jobs from next week but according to the preliminary information the staff changes are not final. The President’s decision to carry out a reshuffle emphasises that Saakashvili is trying to maintain unity among his team members by strengthening the weaker groups. Sharing his “truthful” information to the news agency Pirweli, MP Gia Tsagareishvili from Our Georgia – Free Democrats said the Ministers of Agriculture Bakur Kvezereli, Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Goga Khachidze along with the Minister of Culture and Monument Protection Nika Rurua will also soon be changed, although no particular suggestions have been initiated by the Government as of yet.