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Discussion around Lugar Georgian-American Laboratory continues

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Wednesday, September 11
Russia's chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko said that the Russian side proposes that the U.S. discuss the issue of “the U.S. military biological laboratories in Georgia.” Referring to the Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research (CPHR), Onishenko said: “We have a full, unequivocal and very negative perception of the true purpose of this military facility, which is located near the Russian border. We hold a very strong position.”

The chief sanitary doctor also said that the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, makes some incredible statements about this issue that exacerbates the true state of affairs. "He walks away from the main question: what do the U.S. military microbiologists do in Georgia? We know what they were doing and that is discussed at the expert level," said Onishchenko.

Interfax reports that according to Onishenko, the presence of the U.S. laboratory is a serious obstacle to the normalization of trade relations between Russia and Georgia.

Meanwhile, the US Ambassador made remarks about Lugar Center on September 9th. He said that the most important thing to understand about this facility right now is that it is managed and operated by the government of Georgia. “The United States built this thing, but we built it with a common interest in mind and with the idea that in due course Georgia would assume management and that has now happened. So, we are as much guests in this facility as anyone else," said Norland.

Norland said that he knows that there will be questions. “Every day we see questions about what’s really going on here, and those are legitimate questions. People in the modern world don’t always accept what governments tell them, but the fact is, the best way to deal with those kinds of questions is to maximize transparency, openness, collaboration, and participation. This facility is open to any scientist who wants to come and work here on the agreed upon terms from anywhere in the region, neighboring states, Russia and further afield in Europe and elsewhere,” stated ambassador.

CPHR was opened in 2011, by American government, for what they apportioned $100 million. In May of 2013 Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research was integrated with the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia.

According to the Disease Control and Public Health at the National Centre, CPHR “is of paramount importance to the public health, surveillance, fundamental and applied bio - medical science development. The main functions of the center are supervision of the laboratory, especially in dangerous disease detection and response, laboratory diagnosis and prevention.”

The diplomatic corps, international organizations and high officials visited the Lugar lab on Monday to familiarize themselves with the functions of the lab.

The Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Georgia-Russian affairs, Zurab Abashidze, said “this is an open source project,” where experts from neighbouring countries can also participate, including the Russian Federation. He said the Russian experts had also been in the center.

Abashidze, who has met with those Russian representatives, said they were under impression and even expressed a desire to continue cooperation with the center. “I know that from time to time, we hear from Moscow concerns about the fact that there is something dangerous taking place here. Our answer is that it is open for everyone, come and visit, and get involved,” Abashidze said.