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This is Georgia: Country on Standby for Sarkozy Visit

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, October 5
The Georgian leadership is making a big play of French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s visit to Georgia on October 7. Sarkozy will be visiting Georgia’s capital as part of a regional tour of the South Caucasus. He will also visit Armenia and Azerbaijan. In Georgia President Sarkozy will give a speech to the people on the main Freedom Square in Tbilisi. The French Embassy in Georgia states that on October 7, 5:30pm local time, Sarkozy will address the public from the square, and attendance is free. Georgian people will immediately recall a similar visit from US President George W. Bush and his speech on Freedom Square on May 2005. It is not known precisely whose initiative it was to organize the street rally and Sarkozy’s speech in the main square. This could have been the wish of both sides, thinks Georgian Deputy FM David Jalagania, who also highlighted that France is a country that has stretched the hand of friendship during hard times in Georgian history. It is well known that on August 12, 2008 when there were still clashes between Russian occupational forces and Georgian military regiments Sarkozy arrived in Tbilisi in an attempt to broker a ceasefire agreement. France at the time held the rotating EU presidency. Following Sarkozy in those fateful days, Georgia was then visited by the late Polish President Kaczynsky as well as the Estonian, Lithuanian, Latvian and Ukrainian presidents. At that time, Sarkozy addressed the Georgian population explaining that he had arrived in the country not to make speeches but to end the war. The second time Sarkozy arrived in Tbilisi in September 2008 he continued his efforts to achieve a final ceasefire agreement. Georgia as well as most of the international community considers that Russia has not fulfilled the Sarkozy-brokered agreement and has not withdrawn its occupational forces from Georgia. Some analysts here in Georgia think that by not fulfilling the terms of the agreement Moscow damaged Sarkozy's image. However, Russian officials still think that Sarkozy's comments about this matter, which he presumably will make in Tbilisi at the October 7 meeting, will not be very critical towards Russia. It is likely that both Sarkozy and Saakashvili will be using this occasion to reinforce their reputations within their own countries as well as internationally. Both have crucial election periods coming up and both Sarkozy and Saakashvili need popularity boosts. Yet, how successful the trip will be for the two leaders remains to be seen. Sarkozy is flagging as leader of France and the recent Eastern Partnership summit showed the French to be one of the most reluctant countries to even countenance the idea of making the likes of Georgia or Ukraine EU members. For Saakashvili meanwhile, opposition parties and civil society representatives plan to show to Sarkozy that not everything is in good shape in Georgia. Even so the visit of the head of one of the world's biggest economies and most politically influential states will be a matter of pride and prestige for the country. So, welcome to Georgia Monsieur Sarkozy!