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Former Foreign Minister Japaridze joins Ivanishvili

By Salome Modebadze
Tuesday, January 24
Veteran Georgian diplomat and former state official Tedo Japaridze will lead billionaire politician Bidzina Ivanishvili’s foreign policy team. According to Japaridze, his working group will have several key directions – relations with the Euro-Atlantic space, specifically the EU and NATO; Georgia’s "neighbourhood" of Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia; as well as Russia, relations with which Japaridze hopes to improve in the wake of tensions caused by the August War in 2008.

“My intention now is to join the ranks of the opposition, specifically Bidzina Ivanishvili, a new face on Georgia’s land mined political landscape, in view of the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections,” Japaridze wrote in an opinion piece for several days ago. Calling his decision an electoral encounter, not a revolution, a battle for Georgia and not against individuals, Japaridze said he aims at “putting democratic transition and national security back on track.”

Dreaming of a “normal country” with an openly competitive electoral environment in place of “personal loyalties and tribal power-sharing,” Japaridze said he would serve the national interests of Georgia by helping the country define its clear vision of a role in the region. “Special attention will be paid to understanding where we stand and what the prospects for relations with Russia are… I think that as far as we build our work on pragmatism, realism and adequate understanding of the existing situation, some ways should be found to sort out relations to some extent with this country [Russia],” Japaridze wrote.

Noting the “hard decision” to join the Georgian political arena, Japaridze characterized his 2011 dismissal from the Georgian diplomatic corps as “a diplomatic-political vendetta” for his critical views of the Georgian government. “Parting with my diplomatic passport was difficult, for the country I have served for the best part of my life questioned neither my skills nor my experience, but my integrity,” he said in his opinion piece.

Sharing his optimism towards the period after the Rose Revolution in 2003 that “petty corruption was hard hit, foreign policy retained its vision and the economy was opening up,” Japaridze said he could see “promising innovation and healthy continuity” which was so desired for him as a “body-and-soul diplomat” with a sense of history. “I am not 'revolution material'”. But, he worries, "somewhere along the way, I have the feeling we lost our sense of direction." Confident that Georgian citizens deserve a more stable and secure country, Japaridze said that change is definitely required.

“For those who share these hopes, I ask for your support. For those who have not been used to seeing me take up the role of a political activist, I ask for your understanding. Let me once again press this point: this decision has nothing to do with political ambitions and everything to do with my hopes for Georgia’s future,” he stated.

Japaridze served as Georgia’s Ambassador to the United States until 2002, having previously acted as a secretary of the National Security Council under the governance of former Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze, and later promoted to Foreign Minister after the Rose Revolution, from 2003-4. After leaving government service, he was Secretary-General of the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and president of the U.S.-Caucasus Institute in Tbilisi.