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Tbilisi hosts S. Caucasus security conference

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, March 22
Yesterday, Tbilisi hosted an international conference dedicated to discussing security issues in the South Caucasus. The conference was organized by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Georgia and Great Britain.

"Security in the South Caucasus" acknowledged that the region remains a problem area, thanks to unresolved conflicts. Participants discussed the role of international organizations in facilitating democratic processes and helping provide energy security.

The conference was opened by UK Ambassador to Georgia, Judith Gough, who said the event's format gave participants a unique experience to discuss the region's challenges and prepare strategies.

Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze also spoke, emphasizing the importance of international involvement in regional security issues. "This is one of the main issues when there are regional conflicts in the area and our territories are being occupied. We are discussing concrete strategies and possible means of solving problems regarding security issues”.

The importance of the meeting was also underlined by Deputy Secretary of Georgia's Security Council, Batu Kutelia.

Representatives of the Georgian government have named their major mission as ensuring stability in the region, and observed that foreign cooperation in this and other fields is very important to them.

However, some criticism has emerged from opposition representatives on this point, who believe that the Georgian government is not as committed to stability and security as it claims. They believe that President Mikheil Saakashvili is trying to escalate the situation in some regions, as evidenced by Georgia's role in the August 2008 war with Russia. Political analyst and philosopher Zaza Piralishvili notes that internal security and stability must be examined as well as external. "There should be stability inside the state [but] the current leader of the country is trying to escalate the situation by forming different armed groups in the regions, stating they are army reserves. Such actions and formations foresee pressure on political opponents,” he claims.

Fellow analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili hints at a possible change in Georgia's foreign policy course, which would revolve around the preservation of power. "Saakashvili criticized foreign embassies and stated that Georgian citizens are ill-treated there. Why has Saakashvili made such a statement now? If such actions took place, did he not know about this earlier? Maybe stating that it might mean a change in foreign policy is premature, but it is a fact that responses to remarks by the international community have become aggressive and [those remarks] are being ignored by the Georgian government," he asserted. Tsiskarishvili is concerned that internal Georgian politics could jeopardize its relations with other countries and organizations, pulling it away from the European sphere.