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Defence Minister hopes to be back in her farewell speech

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, August 3
Georgia’s Minister of Defence, Tinatin Khidasheli, has officially quit her post, since she belongs to a political party which will participate in the October 8 parliamentary elections separately from the ruling Georgian Dream coalition.

In her farewell statement to the Georgian Armed Forces (GAF), Khidasheli hoped she might be back again in the post after the elections.

“I am leaving the post with the belief that our paths will cross again. However, I want you to believe that, no matter where I am, I will be the biggest supporter and lobbyist of the Georgian Armed Forces,” Khidasheli said.

Khidasheli thanked the Ministry staff for the efforts they provided while she served as the top figure in the body over the course of a year, and said she hoped Georgia’s defence was better now than in previous years.

Khidasheli belongs to the Republican Party, which is chaired by her husband, Georgia’s Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili.

The Republican Party was a member of the Georgian Dream coalition, founded by the country’s ex-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili prior to the 2012 parliamentary elections, with the aim of defeating the nine-year rule of the United National Movement Government.

This year, for the parliamentary elections the Republican Party will participate alone, as the Georgian Dream coalition has split.

There were three Republican Ministers in the Cabinet: Khidasheli, Minister of Reconciliation and Civil Equality Paata Zakareishvili and Minister of Environment Gigla Agulashvili.

Khidasheli and Zakareishvili have already resigned as they stayed in the Republican Party, while Agulashvili preferred to quit the party and remain a minister.

When evaluating her one year in the post in late June, Khidasheli named the key achievements of the year, which included:

Introducing new tools and instruments that would increase Georgia’s ability to defend itself, and mentioned the Georgia-France agreement about purchasing air defence weapons as an example;

increasing Georgia’s role in the Black Sea Safety concept, which involved NATO members and allies patrolling the Black Sea as a way to ensure security and safety in the region;

a trilateral format of Georgia-Azerbaijan-Turkey relations that worked to ensure the safety of oil and gas pipelines (this type of trilateral relations would help solidify Georgia’s role as a transit country); the Noble Partner training in Georgia this year that saw Georgia solders participate in military exercises alongside NATO troops; training and testing of a hundred Georgian militaeries who became qualified and licensed by NATO. Within a year, Georgia will have another 100+ NATO-qualified soldiers; the NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Centre (JTEC). After the Warsaw Summit the centre was officially licensed by NATO; increased support for servicemen and the families of deceased soldiers; making the Ministry more transparent to the media and general public; abolishing special polling stations for soldiers; reintroducing contract-based military service; serving Georgian meat to the Army instead of importing foreign, frozen meat, which resulted in a saving of 40 million GEL ($17 million); greater cooperation between the Government and business sector to support armed forces.

Before quitting the post, the now ex-Minister also said she had abolished compulsory military conscription, as contract-based military service will be more beneficial for the country.

Khidasheli also announced deeper cooperation in defence between Georgia and the United States, and a relevant document was signed in Georgia in July before the NATO Warsaw Summit held on July 8-9, which was signed by Georgia’s Prime Minister and the US Secretary of State.