By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, April 10President Mikheil Saakashvili has refused to meet with any delegation if it includes German diplomat Dieter Boden and Green Party Bundestag member, Viola von Cramon Taubadel.
This is what Boden told Georgian news agency Pirweli. He said that a delegation of Americans and Europeans sponsored by the German Marshall Fund and the Robert Bosch Foundation were scheduled to tour Tbilisi and Sokhumi. But when it appeared that Saakashvili would not meet the delegation, the visit was canceled. The sponsors submitted a complaint to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both Georgia and Germany, although the Georgian Minister says that no such complaint has reached him.
Presidential spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze has said that no one in the delegation is forbidden from visiting Georgia, however she confirmed that the administration has some skepticism towards Boden. Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze said that some comments made by Boden and von Cramon Taubadel about Abkhazia and South Ossetia overlap with the opinions of Russian officials. This incident proves that the Georgian leadership is emphasizing its stance towards the breakaway regions and reserving the right to express its discontent with those Western politicians and experts who doubt the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia and its position vis-a-vis the disputed regions. According to government's official position, the West should realize that for Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are integral parts of the country, which are temporarily occupied by Russian forces. This is the opinion of not only President Saakashvili, but the entire Georgian population.
Boden has a long record of interaction with Georgia. From 1995-96, he was the head of the OSCE mission to Georgia. From 1999-2001, he was a special representative of the UN Secretary General concerning the conflict in Abkhazia. During his visits to Georgia, he created the so-called Boden Plan, in which he suggested granting Abkhazia federation status within Georgia. Today, he works with the Bosch Foundation as an international analyst. Bodenís position has not come as a surprise to Georgian officials, as he has made his approach clear more than 10 years ago. He is rather critical towards the Georgian leadership and in one case he even compared it to Nazi Germany. This was not appreciated by the Georgian government. They believe that the activities of international organizations, with regards to the breakaway regions, should be monitored by the Georgian side.
This issue of observers and their relationship with the government is especially interesting in an election year. Not only will foreign governments, NGOs, and monitoring missions be in Georgia to observe the territorial dispute, but they will be present to watch over election processes. One wonders how the government will handle foreign criticism in those circumstances.