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EU diplomat explains the essence of his scandalous statement

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, May 22
The EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and Crisis in Georgia and Geneva Talks co-chairperson, Herbert Salber, has appeared at Georgia’s Foreign Ministry after his meeting in Georgia’s eastern occupied Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) region and his scandalous congratulations to the de facto leader on his “election as president.”

His congratulations caused an uproar in Georgia, with the opposition strongly demanding sanctions against the German diplomat and removing him from the Geneva Talks, where Georgian conflict issues are discussed.

“I would like to tell you that at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we discussed issues that caused concerns. I would like to clarify this: the EU fully supports Georgia's territorial integrity. This is a very clear and obvious principle for me and I, as a representative of the EU in the South Caucasus, support this principle,” Salber told the reporters.

“As for the elections in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, the EU has unequivocally declared that it does not recognize the framework in which the elections were held. I support this position. At the same time, the EU is committed to promoting peaceful resolution of the conflict. For this reason the EU and I personally are involved in the Geneva discussions. This is my mandate,” Salber added.

Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister David Dondua stated after the meeting that "We expressed our concerns and Georgia's position in detail”.

"We talked about what he saw in the regions and the developments following his meetings in Tskhinvali," said Dondua.

The EU Special Representative held meetings in Sokhumi in Abkhazia and then in Tskhinvali last week.

Salber met with Anatoly Bibilov and congratulated him on the victory in the Tskhinvali presidential election.

"First of all, I want to congratulate you on the election results and I want to congratulate you on taking this very important position," Salber told Bibilov.

EU Ambassador Janos Hermann was summoned to Georgia’s Foreign Ministry shortly after releasing the statement via Tskhinvali media before Salber arrived in Tbilisi.

After the meeting at Georgia’s Foreign Ministry, Hermann stressed the only position of the EU was supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Tskhinvali de facto government also responded to the issue.

They said that Georgia’s policy with regards to Tskhinvali “is surprising and disappointing”.

“The diplomatic courtesy of Mr. Zaalberi has been perceived by Georgia as a betrayal. It is clear that this hysteria in Georgia serves specific political goals. The Georgian leadership categorically objects the geopolitical reality and is trying to carry out a project they call the ‘Occupation of Georgian Territories’,” says the de facto Foreign Ministry.

Georgian opposition parties, European Georgia and the United National Movement, stated after Salber’s meeting in Foreign Ministry that the Government of Georgia showed “weakness” and a less principled attitude when they did not demand that Salber carry “relevant responsibility” for his words.