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The News in Brief

Friday, February 28
Georgian president visits Armenia

Georgian president Giorgi Margvelashvili started his two-day official visit to Armenia on February 27. On Thursday Margevlashvili met with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan.

After the private talks and extended talks for delegations, Sargsyan and Margvelashvili summarized their meetings at a briefing later that day.

The Georgian President also paid a visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial in capital city, place a wreath to the Genocide monument, and pay tribute to the innocent victims of the Genocide.

Armenian media informs based on the press office of the president of Armenia that Margvelashvili is scheduled to meet with Armenia’s senior officials, and Armenian Catholicos Karekin II. (The Messenger)

France rules not to extradite Georgian ex-minister

A French court has ruled not to extradite former Georgian Defense Minister David Kezerashvili. Kezerashvili's lawyer, Shota Mindeli, said the court in Aix-en-Provence also ordered on February 27 that an electronic bracelet used to monitor Kezerashvili's movements must be removed.

Kezerashvili was released on bail earlier this month. He was arrested in France in October on a weapons-trafficking charge. Investigators in Georgia say Kezerashvili is suspected of money laundering, illegal property sales in Tbilisi, and taking a $12 million bribe to facilitate alcohol smuggling in Georgia.

Kezerashvili is a close associate of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. A number of investigations were launched against officials representing Saakashvili's United National Movement party after it lost parliamentary elections in October 2012 to the Georgian Dream political alliance. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

US Congressmen support Georgia joining NATO

Georgia has gained the support of Republican and Democratic parties within US Congress in its journey to closer ties with NATO. This was announced at a joint press conference hosted by US Congressmen Bill Keating and Ted Poe with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili.

The resolution "Supporting Georgia to become a member of NATO” initiated at the conference, predicted granting Georgia a Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the 2014 NATO Summit.

"NATO says they have an open-door policy [for aspiring countries] … so we need to make sure that Georgia can walk through the door and become part of NATO,” Congressman Poe said.

Both Congressmen expressed their support about the sensitive issue of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia.

They also stressed the Unites States fully supported Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations. (Agenda.Ge)

Lawyer to ex-government officials released on 20,000 GEL bail

The Georgian lawyer, Goga Oniani, who represented high-ranking officials of Georgia's former Government was released on 20,000 GEL bail.

Oniani was arrested and charged with abuse of power, falsifying evidence, and intentional unlawful detention on February 22.

One of Oniani's most famous clients was former Georgian Defense and Interior Minister Bacho Akhalia, who is still imprisoned.

Before he became a lawyer, Oniani served as the head of the Gldani-Nadzaladevi Police Division of Tbilisi.

Oniani’s defense representatives stated they were "satisfied” with the Tbilisi City Court decision to release the lawyer on bail.

Both the lawyer and former ruling United Movement Party member consider Oniani’s arrest to be a result of "pressure on the opposition” and his arrest was "politically motivated”.

The Prosecutors’ Office claimed Oniani, while working as the head of Gldani-Nadzaladevi police division, purposely falsified evidence in a criminal case against David Shatirishvili, an activist for the ruling Georgian Dream party.

The Prosecutor’s Office also stated the lawyer purchased and possessed narcotics, namely cannabis, in large quantities and told a police investigator to report in official documents that he had found and seized cannabis during his personal search of Shatirishvili.

Shatirishvili was subsequently charged with illegal purchase and possession of a narcotic substance.

Oniani’s case is still under investigation. If he is found guilty, he could face a prison sentence of up to eight years. (Agenda.Ge)

Georgian, Russian diplomats to meet next week

Moscow said it does not expect that arranging talks between Georgian and Russian leaders will be discussed “in practical terms” when diplomats from the two countries meet in Prague next week.

A meeting between the Georgian Prime Minister’s special representative for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, is scheduled for March 4 to 5.

This format of dialogue between the two countries, which have not had diplomatic relations since the August 2008 war, was launched in December 2012 to address issues related mainly to trade, economy, and people-to-people contacts.

“We do not expect that in Prague modalities of a high-level meeting will be discussed in practical terms. It [the possible top-level meeting] has to be comprehensively prepared. Both sides are interested in this. In accordance to the usual interstate practice, extensive preparatory work should precede a meeting between leaders in order to elaborate common ideas about agreements, which could be the result of [such a top-level meeting],” Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich, said in a statement on February 26.

Lukashevich said that this format of “informal dialogue” between Abashidze and Karasin has brought some results, among them the return of Georgian products back on the Russian market.

“Georgia’s participation in the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games had a positive effect on the atmosphere of bilateral relations,” Lukashevich said.

He said that during the upcoming meeting, which will be the sixth one, Abashidze and Karasin will continue discussing issues “on which long-term progress is possible” and will exchange views about ongoing and possible bilateral projects in the fields of transportation and trade. (Civil.Ge)

Vice PM Kaladze slams UNM

Vice Prime Minister of Georgia Kakha Kaladze has slammed the United National Movement (UNM). Kaladze said the UNM was a politically irresponsible group of people, who only think about promoting themselves and neither did they care about the processes in their country, nor in Ukraine.

“Citizen Saakashvili dares build up his PR campaign on Ukraine’s tragedy – [Mikheil] Saakashvili, whose regime was rejected in the same way as [Victor] Yanukovich’s government was rejected by their own voters. Providing their own comfort, holidays and prosperity - this is a similarity between the teams of Saakashvili and Yanukovich and the crime before their peoples. The speeches of the UNM focused on their own PR have moved from the phase of ridiculousness to the phase of idiotism, which is endangering the nation’s policy. The representative of this party dares say in a televised interview that there is no Russian army on Georgian soil. The statements by the members of the UNM represent a threat to the stability of political processes, the monitoring of the situation in the occupation zone and relations with Ukraine and Russia. I demand from the office of the UNM party - apologize before each IDP, each family, who lost their beloved people in the battles for Georgia’s territorial unity,” Kaladze said. (Rustavi 2)