Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Georgian troupe's men generate sparks onstage

The fabled choreographer George Balanchine, whose ethnic roots were in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, famously proclaimed that "ballet is woman."

But it is the men who dominate the Georgian State Dance Company. And Saturday night at the Auditorium Theatre -- where the spectacular company of 70 dancers and 10 musicians put on one of the most thrilling, technically astonishing spectacles to come this way in a long time -- those men literally generated sparks.

Whether whirling on their knees at jet speed, spinning like gyroscopes on the curled toes of their sleek, leather-tipped black boots, or soaring through the air while engaging in death-defying combat (the clash of their knives and shields sending little bolts of lightning into the air), the troupe's male dancers brilliantly captured the wild, highly competitive nature of their country's alpha types. [More]

Georgia Ex-Minister Retracts Allegations

Georgia's former defense minister retracted allegations that the president of this former Soviet republic was involved in a murder plot and other corruption, prosecutors said Monday.

Opposition leaders and a lawyer for the former official accused authorities of coercing the retraction and promised to push for early elections over the case, which has touched off the country's worst political turmoil in years.

Irakly Okruashvili made his allegations against President Mikhail Saakashvili on Sept. 26. The president, who has sought to lessen the influence of neighboring Russia, called the charges "unpardonable lies" and the next day Okruashvili was charged with extortion, money laundering and abuse of power. [More]

UN chief recommends extension of UN mission in Georgia

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended on Monday to extend the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) for six months.

In his report on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, unveiled on Monday, Ban noted that despite relative calm in recent months, the deadly clash that occurred on Sept. 20 is "the most serious incident involving the Georgian and Abkhaz sides in many years." [More]

Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine to sign energy cooperation agreements

In the context of the forthcoming energy summit which will held on October 10 - 11 in Vilnius, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine are to sign energy cooperation agreements, said Lithuania Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Kestutis Kudsmanas. [More]

Monday, October 1, 2007

Toughest challenge for Georgian leader

This week, the former defence minister, Irakli Okruashvili, set in motion a dramatic chain of events when he accused his former ally, Mikhail Saakashvili, of leading a corrupt government and asking him to kill several potential opponents.

He offered no evidence, and his allegations were rejected as false and absurd.

But the former defence minister was arrested on corruption charges two days afterwards, and several thousand people took to the streets of the capital, Tbilisi, in protest.

It was one of the largest demonstrations in Georgia since the Rose Revolution four years ago which brought President Saakashvili to power. Some of the speakers vowed to overthrow Mr Saakashvili, as he once overthrew his predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze. Leading opposition parties have now united to form what they call the "Salvation Front". [More]

Georgian President Returns Amid Turmoil

The pro-Western president of Georgia interrupted an overseas trip and returned to the ex-Soviet republic Saturday amid tensions over the arrest of a former ally who accused the leader of involvement in a murder plot.

Former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili was arrested Thursday on corruption charges after alleging that President Mikhail Saakashvili ordered the killing of a well-known businessman. "Okruashvili and everybody else knows that all the things he said about me and about the country's leadership are unpardonable lies," Saakashvili said in televised remarks. Saakashvili returned overnight from the UN. General Assembly in New York instead of traveling directly to Greece for a visit starting Monday.

Deputy administration chief Eka Dzhodzhua declined to comment on the reason for Saakashvili's return. But it came hours after thousands of opposition supporters rallied in the capital Friday, calling for Saakashvili's resignation and possibly signaling the start of Georgia's most serious political crisis since the 2003 Rose Revolution brought him to power. [More]

Georgia and Russia Clash at UN

Georgia's president told world leaders Wednesday that Russia continues to interfere in its domestic politics and engage in "reckless and dangerous" behavior, the latest in a series of conflicts between the two countries.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly, President Mikhail Saakashvili accused Russia of trying to skew reports of an incident last week in the breakaway region of Abkhazia in which Georgian forces killed two Russian military officials.

Saakashvili, who has vowed to bring the region back under Georgian control and accuses Russians of backing the separatists, said claims by a senior Russian official that the men killed were innocent were "unconstructive, unsubstantiated and wholly untrue." [More]

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Georgia Responds to Abkhazia's Threat

Tensions have drastically escalated in the breakaway republic of Abkhazia since last Thursday. A group of Abkhazian saboteurs penetrated the Georgian controlled territory near the Upper Kodori Gorge (Upper Abkhazia) and attacked workers who were building a road connecting the gorge with Svaneti. The terrorist group opened fire on the forces of the Georgian Interior Ministry who were guarding the road construction. Georgian security responded to the attackers with fire-- killing two Abkhazian intruders, wounding four, and capturing six.

"An illegally armed unit, controlled by Abkhazian authorities, entered the territory controlled by Georgia-- which in fact controls the road which connects the upper Abkhazian Kodori Gorge with the rest of Georgia. The clear objective of that unit was to take control of that part of road and to attack," said David Bakradze, Georgian Minister on Conflict Resolution Issues. [More]

President Meets With Chairmen Of Foreign Parliaments

Mikheil Saakashvili, president of Georgia, is meeting with the Chairmen of the Parliaments of Scandinavian and Baltic Sea countries. The meeting began at the State Chancellery of Georgia on Monday morning. Nino Burjanadze, chairwoman of Georgian parliament, is also attending.

Chairmen of the Parliaments of Scandinavian and Baltic Sea countries arrived on official visit to Georgia on September 23. Prime-News was told at the Press Center of Parliament that the chairmen of the parliament would hold meetings with Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia, His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II and Zurab Noghaideli, Prime Minister of Georgia, within the framework of the visit. [More]

'Last warning' by Bagapsh not taken seriously in Tbilisi

Sergey Bagapsh, the de facto President of Abkhazia, requested the government of Georgia release its 'hostages' and threatened to start military actions in Upper Abkhazia (the only part of the breakaway republic remaining under Georgian control) if they were not released.

Kote Gabashvili, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Parliament of Georgia, said that at one of his press conferences in Moscow, Seregay Bagapsh had openly advocated a terrorist course of action with regards to Abkhazia's relations with Georgia, proving that any comment on Bagapsh' ultimatum is mindless. [More]

Kokoity Cuts Off Cooperation With Diplomats Accredited In Georgia

Eduard Kokoity, de facto president of the unrecognized republic South Ossetia, cut off cooperation with all diplomats accredited to the Republic of Georgia except for Vyacheslav Kovalenko, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Georgia. [More]

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Export Potential for Georgian Hazelnut

Georgian hazelnuts and walnuts traditionally maintain a position among the top ten goods exported from Georgia. In the first half of 2007, these products ranked ninth. They account for approximately 3.4% of Georgian exports. In the last six months of 2007, exportation of these goods significantly declined from the previous year. However, they still cover 5-7% of the world’s nut market. Nearly 18,627 million USD of nuts are exported from Georgia every year. In 2006, the amount neared 25,591 million USD. Its export share equaled 5.6%. There has been consistent growth of nut production since the 1990s. Since then, nut production has grown 5% annually.

Are there prospects of further development? Experts reckon that in terms of nut sales volume, Georgia will not become a market leader in the world; but if we consider that Georgia’s land is exceptionally fertile and the largest portion of cultivated nuts is exported, we can certainly say that some prospects exist. [More]

Ally to pull most of its troops from Iraq

The former Soviet republic Georgia will cut the number of its troops in Iraq to less than a quarter of the current contingent by June, its defense minister said Friday.

"The Georgian contingent is being reduced to around 300 servicemen from 2,000," Defense Minister David Kezerashvili told journalists. "We had an original agreement with the United States that we would cut our military contingent in Iraq in summer 2008." [More]

Jemal Inaishvili Met With Umberto Ranieri

Jemal Inaishvili, Vice Speaker of Georgian Parliament, and Umberto Ranieri, Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament, discussed political and trade-economic relations between Georgia and Italy at the meeting on Monday. [More]

Early Human-Like Skeletons Are First Outside of Africa

When it came to spreading across the globe, humanity's early ancestors may literally have put their best foot forward. So conclude paleontologists examining the partial skeletons of a group of four individuals who died in what is now the Republic of Georgia nearly 1.8 million years ago.

Their remains -- the earliest members of the Homo genus found to date outside of Africa -- are telling much about how key body changes propelled this group's spread around the planet.

"Their lower extremities are evolving faster than their brain and upper extremities, and that seems to be what's necessary for taking them out of Africa and on a long trip to other parts of the world," explained anthropologist Jeffrey Laitman, director of anatomy at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City. [More]

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rugby World Cup underdogs losing matches but winning hearts

If outspoken former Wallaby winger David Campese had his way, the likes of Georgia, Namibia and Portugal wouldn't be at the Rugby World Cup. Before the 20-country tournament got under way in France, Campese championed calls for the number of teams to be cut to 16 to avoid blowout scores that do little for rugby beyond rewriting its record books.

Yet the underdogs have shamed their critics by scaring some of the fancied teams and proving they do deserve places at the game's biggest event. "Everybody who's here has earned the right to be here," New Zealand flanker Jerry Collins said. "Who's to say they shouldn't be here? They should get credit for getting this far and we should get behind them. They're only going to get better if they come here."

While rookie Portugal, Namibia and Japan have been on the wrong end of thumpings rugby's developing world also has turned in some inspirational performances and drawn some of the biggest roars from crowds in France.

No team has impressed more than Georgia, playing in only its second World Cup and still searching for its first win. Rugby is in its infancy in the former Soviet republic, which boasts just eight rugby pitches. [More]

Friends of Georgia Hold Strategy Session in Lithuania

The New Friends of Georgia group of countries conferred in an enlarged and upgraded format on September 13-14 in Vilnius. This meeting shows that a strong nucleus of eight countries has developed within the European Union and NATO (alongside the United States in the latter case), supporting an active policy by the two organizations in Europe’s East generally and toward Georgia in particular.

Initiated in 2005 in Tbilisi by the three Baltic states, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria, the New Friends’ group has matured this year. Georgia’s Black Sea neighbors Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, while the Czech Republic and Sweden have joined the New Friends of Georgia group. The meeting in Vilnius was the first held at the level of ministers of foreign affairs in full format. The EU’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, participated as an observer, while his Swedish compatriot, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt, brought Sweden to the table for the first time. [More]

Monday, September 17, 2007

As Georgia reforms, judiciary under scrutiny

Since being arrested last year for plotting to overthrow the government, Maia Topuria and 11 other Georgian opposition members were tried in a closed courtroom for high treason. Accused of recruiting paid demonstrators to help stage a violent takeover of parliament, they were found guilty on Aug. 24.

Ms. Topuria, the niece of Igor Giorgadze – a Georgian living in Russia who is wanted on charges of attempting to assassinate then-president Eduard Shevardnadze in 1995 – and a leader of his party was sentenced to 8-1/2 years.

The case has played out against a backdrop of simmering tensions between a resurgent Russia and Georgia, with Topuria and her fellow defendants widely despised at home. But legal and human rights experts see the case, now under appeal, as a test of judicial reform in one of the most promising former Soviet states. [More]

Military of 48 countries and police force of 13 trained in Turkey

Under the Guest Military Personnel (MAP) accord, Turkey has educated 19,399 foreign soldiers. In 2007 alone, 1,064 soldiers from 27 countries received training in Turkey. After attending classes at military academies, military high schools, military schools, the Military Medical Academy or noncommissioned officer’s higher vocational schools, the foreign soldiers receive training by the Turkish Armed Forces.

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) also sent military personnel to different countries to educate military forces in their own countries. Azerbaijan and Georgia requested Turkey’s assistance with a complete restructuring of their military.

Turkey has offered most of its police training to the Turkic republics and countries in the Balkans. Turkey provided the Palestinian police force everything from education to uniforms, helping Palestine create its first official police force. The police forces of Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iraq also received training from Turkish officials. [More]

Russia warns Georgia of negative outcome over "peacekeepers" arrest

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday the detention of Russian "peacekeepers" by Georgia August 29 was a 'blunt arbitrariness' on behalf of the ex-Soviet republic.

On August 29, Georgian Interior Ministry officers apprehended three peacekeepers from the joint forces' North Ossetian battalion, and although one of them was released, two were sentenced later to two months imprisonment.

Georgian authorities reported that Interior Ministry officers had detained Tariel Khachirov and Vitaly Valiyev on suspicion of illegally detaining nine Georgians August 26 and 27. [More]

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Undersea fiber connection links Georgia, Western Europe

Caucasus Online (headquartered in Tbilisi, Georgia) contracted Tyco Telecommunications, a business unit of Tyco Electronics, to construct an undersea fiber optic system from Poti, Georgia, to Varna, Bulgaria. The Black Sea system will then link to Caucasus' terrestrial system and other international carriers, providing Georgian customers with higher-bandwidth direct communications with Western Europe. [More]

Ministers discuss bilateral cooperation

Georgia's Foreign minister Gela Bezhuashvili, on his current trip to Europe, has met Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The ministry reported:
The sides discussed a wide spectrum of bilateral relations between Georgia and Germany. The Ministers focused on Georgia’s integration into the European structures and agreed their positions and details of further interaction. The focus of the meeting was the conflicts on the territory of Georgia and the Peace Plans for their resolution. The talking points included, inter alia, issues of energy security. Special attention was devoted to the Tsitelubani incident. The Georgian Foreign Minister updated his colleague in detail on the ongoing reforms in Georgia.


Friday, September 7, 2007

Irakli Tavartkiladze To Be Appointed As Ambassador Of Georgia To Greece

Irakli Tavartkiladze, former Batumi City Mayor, will be appointed as Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Georgia to Greece.

Gela Bezhuashvili, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, told journalists that this planned rotation was carried out in the diplomatic corps of Georgia. Sandro Chumburidze, acting Ambassador of Georgia to Greece, has accomplished his mission and will return back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. [More]

Tbilisi Denies Militant Suspects Infiltrated Russia from Georgia

Georgia said Russia’s allegation that two militant suspects killed in Karachay-Cherkessia infiltrated from Georgia was a provocation.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said in a statement on September 5 that two militants have been killed in a clash within Russia’s north Caucasus republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, who have infiltrated into the republic from “a neighboring country.”

Karachay-Cherkessia borders with Georgia, in particular with breakaway Abkhazia, mainly with Tbilisi-controlled upper Kodori Gorge. Only a small section of Karachay-Cherkessia’s border lies with the Georgia’s high-mountainous region of Svaneti.

OSCE tries to unravel Russia-Georgia missile muddle

“A dangerous situation”, that's the way Miomir Zuzul, from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, described allegations by Georgia that Russia fired a missile at it last month.

The Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office was looking into Tbilisi's claim that on August 6, a Russian SU-24 jet fired a missile onto its territory near the village of Tsitelubani, close to the border with Georgia’s breakaway Republic of Abkhazia. [More]

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Russia says Islamists killed crossing from Georgia

Russia's FSB internal security service killed two armed men on Wednesday whom it described as Islamist extremists as they tried to cross over a mountainous border from Georgia.

Russia has in the past accused Georgia of not doing enough to prevent Chechen rebels hiding in its mountains, although the Georgian army has since swept through mountain valleys where rebels were believed to be hiding. [More]

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

OSCE to present findings on Georgia-Russia missile row

Europe’s leading security watchdog will present its findings Thursday on an alleged Russian missile strike on Georgian territory last month, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said.

Officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are preparing a report on the incident following meetings in Georgia and Russia, said Moratinos, who holds the rotating OSCE chairmanship. [More]

A Monument to the Terror: Georgia's Museum of the Soviet Occupation

Upon entry, the museum feels more like a mausoleum, which is as it should be. You walk into a large, bunker-like space, dark but strangely welcoming, oddly calming. With the sad intimacy of a voyeur peering from darkness to washes of light, you peer at the wall-mounted exhibits. Searing bouquets of memory, they seem to rise at you. After all, the Museum of the Soviet Occupation here is a kind of mausoleum, one that chronicles the merciless quashing of a national destiny for over 80 years--that of Georgia by Moscow under the Soviet system and beyond, from 1919 to the Rose Revolution in late 2003. It may sound like a grim prospect, but the experience of touring the single space for an hour is a humanizing and stirring one, never depressing, rather as if one had just watched a perfectly staged, cathartic tragedy. And it ends in a resurrection of hope with scenes from the Rose Revolution's democratic triumph. [More]

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Russia demands release of N.Ossetian "peacekeepers" in Georgia

The Russian Foreign Ministry demanded Monday the immediate release of two North Ossetian members of the Joint Peacekeeping Force sentenced in Georgia to two months imprisonment.

Last Wednesday, Georgian Interior Ministry officers apprehended three "peacekeepers" from the joint forces' North Ossetian battalion, although one of them was released, two were sentenced later to two months imprisonment. [More]

How Gazprom turned up the heat on the West

In January 2006, just a month after Ukraine's Orange Revolution, which ousted the pro-Russian leadership in favour of pro-Western reformers under President Viktor Yushchenko, the former Soviet republic suddenly found its gas supply had been switched off by Moscow, which raised prices fourfold overnight.

The cruel midwinter move sent European governments into a tailspin as they realised the inherent vulnerability stemming from their own dependence on Russian gas. The Kremlin promised that Gazprom would honour its contracts elsewhere, and that the shutdown to Ukraine would not have a knock-on effect in Western Europe. France, Italy, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania all suffered a dip in gas supplies as a result of Ukraine's disconnection, yet curiously Germany, which depends on Russia for 40 per cent of its natural gas supplies, was not affected. The former German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, is chairman of a Gazprom German-Russian pipeline that will carry gas to Europe via the Baltic.

Later that same month, another pro-Western former Soviet republic, Georgia, was the victim of unexplained sabotage to the gas pipeline, which left supplies cut off. The prime suspect was Russia, but Moscow simply accused Georgia of "hysteria" for suggesting that the Kremlin might be using gas as a political weapon. [More]

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Tbilisi Rules Out S.Ossetia Gas Pipe for Now

Tbilisi will not give the go-ahead for the construction of a gas pipeline linking South Ossetia with the neighboring North Ossetian Republic in Russia, as long as the region remains beyond the control of Georgia’s central authorities, PM Zurab Nogaideli said on August 29.

Yuri Morozov, the prime minister of secessionist South Ossetia, said recently that the Georgian energy minister, Nika Gilauri, was ready, after September 20, to engage in talks on the construction of the pipeline with Itera, a Russian company distributing gas in Georgia’s regions.

Gilauri, however, has rejected the claim. “No such talks have ever taken place at the Energy Ministry,” he told reporters on August 29. [More]

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cabinet Reshuffle in Georgia

Lado Chipashvili, the minister for healthcare, labor and social welfare, has been dismissed in a cabinet reshuffle, Dimitri Kitoshvili, the president’s spokesperson, said on August 29.

Chipashvili, he said, would be replaced by the current minister of environment, Davit Tkeshelashvili, whose position would in turn be filled by his deputy, Davit Chantladze.

Chipashvili will be appointed as Georgia’s ambassador to the Czech Republic. “The current ambassador to the Czech Republic, Kakha Sikharulidze, will be appointed to an important position in the Foreign Ministry,” Kitoshvili said. [More]

Russian peacekeepers released in Georgia

Eight Russian peacekeepers released by Georgian military police have now returned to their base. On Tuesday, they were arrested after their truck collided with a passenger bus near the Abkhazian border. [More]

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

NATO, Georgia to share radars in 2007

Georgia's radars will probably be integrated into NATO's radar system by the end of this year, earlier than planned because of worries about Russian activities, the Georgian Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

"Recent incidents prompted discussions in Brussels, at NATO headquarters, to speed up these procedures, so that Georgia is incorporated into that system as soon as possible," Georgian Deputy Defence Minister Batu Kuteliya told Reuters. "They should probably be finished late this autumn." [More]

Russia-Georgia dispute escalates

Just as relations between Russia and the post-Soviet nation of Georgia were improving from their nadir last year, a bizarre phantom air war this month has unleashed mutually hostile rhetoric and escalated tensions.

For almost a month, Georgia has complained that Russian fighter jets have made incursions into its airspace. Most recently, it said that its forces fired on an intruding Russian plane near the breakaway republic of Abkhazia last week. The republic, a Russian protectorate claimed by Georgia under international law, is a point of contention between the two countries.

But a top Russian general scoffed that his Georgian colleagues must be "hallucinating" since, he insisted, no Russian warplanes have flown anywhere near Georgia. Kremlin officials have repeatedly suggested that Georgian hard-liners, seeking a pretext for military action against Abkhazia and another rebel statelet, South Ossetia, may be "fabricating" the incidents. [More]

Monday, August 27, 2007

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Visits Georgia

Elmar Mammadyarov, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, paid a two day visit to Batumi on 26 August, the Georgian Foreign Ministry announced. Cultural events will be organized in honour of the minister in Batumi. He will visit the autonomous republic of Ajaria and its capital Batumi.

On 27 August at 1pm the Government of Ajaria will host an official meeting between the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister and his Georgian counterpart Gela Bezhuashvili. “The sides will discuss a range of issues concerning bilateral cooperation, security in the region, including cooperation within the framework of GUAM,” she noted.

The spokesman neither confirmed nor rejected reports on the opening of an Azerbaijani consulate in Batumi. [More]

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Georgia on His Mind: an Interview with Mikheil Saakashvili

On Aug. 8, a missile the size of a bus struck near a village some 50 miles north of this Eurasian country's capital city, Tbilisi. It failed to explode. In all likelihood the missile came from Russian jet fighters violating Georgian airspace, as Georgians quickly claimed--the incident was eerily similar to one in March, when Russian attack helicopters flew at night and, without provocation, fired missiles into Georgian territory.

In both cases, Georgian authorities showed the world radar flight path data as proof. The world did nothing the first time, and will likely do nothing again. Meanwhile, unexplained incursions continue daily. This is the kind of near-lethal brinkmanship which Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili believes will only encourage more belligerence from Russia.

Mr. Saakashvili has spent his first 3 1/2 years in office impelling his country forward economically, courting NATO and European Union membership, eradicating corruption and trying to woo Russian-supported secessionists back into the fold. Above all, he strives daily to keep his country, with a population of four million, on the mind of Western nations so its security and success will seem synonymous with theirs--and keep the Russians at bay. The Russians still seem to perceive post-Soviet Georgian independence as a kind of betrayal, responding with an array of destabilizing policies, such as the imposition of embargoes on Georgian goods.

Click [here] for Melik Kaylan's interview with the Georgian president.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Georgia says it fired at Russian aircraft

Georgian forces fired at a Russian plane flying over Georgian territory earlier this week, a government official said Friday, claiming residents nearby reported an explosion and fire afterward. Russia immediately denied the claim. [More]

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Administrative Note

The blogger will be overseas and incommunicado for the next three weeks. The news from Georgia will resume in September.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Georgia up in arms over Olympic cash

A bitter diplomatic row has broken out over Russia's plans to harness the economic potential of a breakaway republic in neighbouring Georgia to prepare for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

There were wild celebrations in Moscow last month when Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi was chosen to host the games despite having practically no infrastructure in place. [More]

Emergency UN meeting: Georgia

Georgia has urged the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on "an act of aggression" by Russia.

Georgia says it has "incontrovertible evidence" that Russian jets launched a missile near the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Georgia's Charge d'Affaires Irakli Chikovani also urged the United Nations, Russia, the European Union and other international organisations to investigate and verify "this unprovoked use of force against Georgia." [More]

Bezhuashvili Provided German Colleague With Information

Prime News was told at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the Foreign Minister of Germany was provided with the information regarding the violation of the Georgian-Russian border, intrusion into Georgian airspace and the bombing of the territory of Georgia by military aircrafts of the Russian Federation that took place on 6 August 2007.

The necessity of adequate reaction from the international community - and Europe in particular - in regards to this act of agression was emphasized. Gela Bezhuashvili also asked for the support of Germany in evaluating the evidence of the 6 August attack on Georgia by the European experts. [More]

Kremlin denies air raid on Georgia

The Kremlin on Tuesday denied accusations from Georgia that Russian warplanes mounted an air raid near a disputed territory in the north of the ex-Soviet republic.

"We categorically deny any involvement in these events," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told AFP by telephone. "These declarations are not based on any reality." [More]

Emerging Georgia have first win on their mind

Odds as long as 5000-1 to win the rugby World Cup suggest Georgia's chances of causing an upset in France are not just slim, but positively anorexic.

The former Soviet bloc country are still very much an emerging nation in the game and their rugby union pedigree contrasts strongly with the world's leading sides.

It is only 18 years since they played their first international against Zimbabwe and 15 since they gained membership of the International Rugby Board (IRB), while there are only eight rugby pitches and some 300 adult players in the country and certainly no professional league.

But the Lelos made it to the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France with a 28-14 aggregate play-off win over another qualifier, Portugal, and have a genuine chance of claiming their first scalp in the tournament having been drawn in the same group as fellow minnows Namibia. [More]

Friday, August 10, 2007

Philippines, Georgia Seek Closer Ties

“Your country is progressing in a rapid way thanks to your vigorous government,” said Ambassador of the Philippines Bahnorim A. Guinomla during his official visit to Georgia on July 26.

In Tbilisi, the ambassador met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli and other key government figures. [More]

Tbilisi secures control of villages in Kodori

Georgian authorities reported sporadic fighting Wednesday in a mountainous region where the government sent police forces to subdue a defiant militia leader and his supporters — the latest confrontation in a volatile former Soviet republic plagued by separatist movements. Georgy Arveladze, the chief of President Mikhail Saakashvili’s administration, claimed police had secured control over a handful of villages in the Kodori Gorge district, but skirmished with opponents in wooded areas or settlements where they faced resistance. The operation in the Kodori Gorge area began Tuesday, several days after Emzar Kvitsiani, who was an envoy to the region under Saakashvili’s predecessor, threatened to reactivate a militia of about 300 men. Arveladze asserted that the operation was being “conducted with great success,” despite difficult terrain. He claimed Kvitsiani and another man he referred to as a criminal figure were trying to escape from the region, but added, “all roads are blocked and they cannot run away.” [More]

S.Ossetia turns down peace talks in Tbilisi

South Ossetia's delegation will not participate in an August 9-10 session of the Joint Control Commission (JCC) on the settlement of the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict, the unrecognized republic's president said.

"We are in favor of continuing the JCC's work, but outside Georgia. Moscow, Vladikavkaz, Tskhinvali, or any other city, but not Tbilisi," Eduard Kokoity was quoted by the republic's information and press committee as saying. [More]

Tbilisi urges Abkhazia to drop bellicose rhetoric

Tbilisi and Sukhumi again traded accusations over the situation in the Kodori Gorge. Georgian Minister for Separatist Conflicts David Bakradze (pictured) on Friday urged the Abkhazian authorities to refrain from threats against the official Tbilisi.

They should think well before making threatening statements.... From the military point of view these threats are not serious, and from the political one -- an attempt to aggravate the situation and prevent the process of a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Bakradze expressed the hope that the international community, including the United Nations, would give an evaluation to such statements by the authorities of the self-proclaimed republic.

The latest wave of mutual accusations was set off by the opening of the NATO information center in Georgia, in the upper part of the Kodori Gorge on July 26. [More]

Gazprom unlikely to change gas price for Georgia

The price of gas for Georgia is projected to remain at $235 per thousand cubic meters in 2008, spokesman for Gazprom Sergei Kupriyanov told Echo of Moscow today. He pointed out that Georgia was already paying this amount for gas supplies from Russia. [More]

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Russia has no plans to engage Abkhazia in Olympic projects - FM

Russia has never raised the question of attracting Abkhazia for the construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

“None of the Russian officials has ever raised such a question anywhere,” Lavrov said, responding to mass media reports.

Earlier, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza said in Tbilisi, Georgia, that attempts to involve Abkhazia in the Sochi Olympic projects would be an impermissible mistake on the part of Russia. [More]

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Georgia claims Russian attack

Russia has committed an "act of aggression" against Georgia by firing a guided missile at its territory, officials in Tbilisi say.

They say the missile landed outside the village of Tsitelubani on Monday, some 60km (37 miles) north-west of the capital Tbilisi, but did not explode.

Georgia has now made a formal protest to Russia over the incident. Moscow denies all the accusations. [More]

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Top Georgian threatens Olympic boycott

A top Georgian politician on Tuesday threatened a boycott against the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi if Moscow included a rebel province of Georgia in construction plans.

Nino Burdzhanadze was responding to comments made by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, who said building materials for Olympic facilities could be brought to Sochi from neighbouring Abkhazia.

"He clearly forgot that Russian jurisdiction does not extend over the territory of Abkhazia," Burdzhanadze said in an interview. [More]

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Stormy Life of Irina Sarishvili

Largely dissident for the two decades of her uneven political life, she has been through several arrests and survived two near death incidents since her start as an anti-Soviet activist. Now in her mid-forties, she is still in the opposition.

“Despite my inner protest against communist rule, I’d never thought of entering political resistance. I would’ve never imagined myself being part of some collective movement—simply because I wasn’t the type, and I’m not a collectivist type of person now either,” says a smiling Irina Sarishvili, leader of the controversial political movement Imedi (Hope). [More]

International Organisation for Peace & Sport plans to implement Locally Based Projects

Just over two months after the official launch in Olympia of the international organisation “Peace and Sport”, based in the Principality of Monaco and under the High Patronage of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, President Joël Bouzou announced the first in a series of grassroots operations.

In the framework of its Locally Based Projects, Peace & Sport looks to develop a variety of efforts. Among them, one in Georgia is designed to help people living in suburban and disadvantaged areas of major cities. [More]

Krinica to host Economic Forum on 5-8 September

On September 5-8, Poland’s popular ski-town Krynica will host representatives from more than 60 countries to attend the XVII Economic Forum, the most prestigious event in Central and Eastern Europe. More than 3,000 participants will attend the XVII Economic Forum, according to the organizers. Among the guests will be European commissioners, presidents, prime ministers, governmental and parliamentary delegations, NGOs' representatives, experts, journalists, and economic and cultural leaders.

The Georgians await the event with interest, as Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was awarded the ‘Man of the Year’ title at last year’s Forum. This year Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli and Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili are expected to attend as well. [More]

Georgia: Over Half of South Ossetia's Budget Comes from Russia

The so-called republic of South Ossetia replenished its 2006 budget with funds from Russia - nominally received as investments from Russian state-owned companies - which amount to 60 percent of the total budget.

"This money comes from Russia. It is coming directly and openly. This is not insignificant assistance," the chairman of the South Ossetian separatist parliament, Znaur Gassiyev, said. The Russian Foreign Ministry has made no comment on the reasons for providing financial assistance to South Ossetia. [More]

Friday, July 27, 2007

Russia should not involve Abkhazia in 2014 Olympics - Georgia

Russia has no right to use Abkhazia's territory for the Winter Olympics in 2014 without official approval from Tbilisi, Georgia's parliamentary speaker said commenting on an article published in the Russian press Thursday.

Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta published an article Thursday stating that Russia plans to site Olympic facilities in the self-proclaimed republic of Abkhazia, suggesting that investment in the project could reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

"If Russia without Georgia's official approval invests funds to develop facilities for the Sochi Olympics, then we should remind Russia that Abkhazia is the sovereign territory of Georgia. If Russia continues with capital investment in the region, then the Sochi Olympics will share the same fate as those held in Moscow," Nino Burdzhanadze said. [More]

Armenia, Georgia Discuss Prospects for Conflict Settlement

Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanyan met with his Georgian counterpart, Gela Bezhuashvili, July 26, in the course of his business trip to Georgia. The two talked about political, economic and cultural cooperation. They also discussed regional issues and relations with neighboring countries. The heads of the Armenian and Georgian foreign agencies also reflected on partnership within the framework of international organizations.

Oskanyan called the attention of his interlocutor to the fact that Republic of Armenia citizens have been arrested by Georgian law enforcement bodies recently with charges of crossing the Georgian border illegally. Oskanyan and Bejuashvili spoke about negotiations around a contract on drawing the Armenian-Georgian state border. [More]

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Russia no longer Georgia's biggest trade partner, statistics show

Trade between Georgia and Russia fell 4.4 percent to $322m in the first quarter of 2007, compared to the same period a year earlier, the Georgian State Statistics Department reported, indicating that this was the first time that Russia has ceded its leading position in Georgia's foreign trade to Turkey, whose contribution stood at $387m in Q1 2007.

Georgia's trade with the CIS has also dropped. Where in January-June 2006, the CIS's share of Georgia's overall foreign trade stood at 41 percent, it has shrunk to 37 percent this year . At the same time, Georgia's trade with Ukraine has surged 41 percent to $263m, which put the republic at 3rd place among Georgia's foreign trade partners. [More]

Sanakoyev: Most Ossetians Support Broad Autonomy

“South Ossetia must stay within Georgia,” says Dmitry Sanakoyev, head of the Tbilisi-backed temporary administrative unit of South Ossetia.

The 38-year-old Sanakoyev, once de facto prime minister of breakaway South Ossetia, spoke with The Messenger in his administrative base of Kurta — mere kilometers away from secessionist-controlled Tskhinvali. Ossetian and Georgian flags hang on the wall behind his desk, together with a three-foot-long Georgian sword. [More]

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ossetian Community Assembly

Over 100 representatives of the Ossetian community from throughout Georgia gathered at an assembly in the Georgian-administered village of Tamarasheni in the South Ossetian conflict zone on July 22. The Tbilisi-backed conference discussiong cooperation with the provisional government was held in a newly built multi-functional complex in Tamarasheni, less than a kilometer away from the successionist capital of Tskhinvali.

Dimitri Sanakoev, head of the South Ossetian provisional administration, told the conference that there are two options: either confrontation, or cooperation and integration into the European family together with Georgia. “This road is full of challenges, but I am sure Ossetians will overcome all the problems,” he said.

He also pointed out that this road does not mean cutting ties with Russia. “We will maintain close ties with Russia and its North Ossetian Republic,” Sanakoev said. He said that his administration will closely cooperate with the Georgian central authorities in defining South Ossetia’s autonomous status within the Georgian state. [More]

Russia mending ties with Georgia

Russia has resumed issuing study, work and business visas to Georgians after a diplomatic row strained relations between the two countries. The Russian embassy in Tbilisi said Friday Moscow is reversing measures imposed during a bitter diplomatic row last year. "Since July 19 the consulate has been looking at the documents of those who wish to obtain a study, transit, work or business visa," embassy press attaché Zarina Gabieva told reporters. "The question of the allocation of tourist visas is still under consideration."

Relations have been rocky between Moscow and Tbilisi since 2003, when the pro-Western Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in the former Soviet republic. They hit a new low when Tbilisi arrested four Russian army officers on suspicion of spying in late September. This prompted Moscow to withdraw its ambassador, impose financial sanctions against its southern neighbor and deport hundreds of Georgians. [More]

Thursday, July 19, 2007

UN Secretary-General Insists that Granting Independence to Kosovo Will Not Create Precedent

The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon believes that granting Kosovo independence cannot be a precedent for separatist movements in other countries, including Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Ki-moon stated at a news conference at the UN headquarters in New York on 16 July, "I'd like to make it clear that this issue of Kosovo is a sui generis (unique) issue" that will not create any precedence for other situations such as for Georgia's Abkhazia republic or Azerbaijan's disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

At the end of last week the United States and its allies sent the UN Security Council the next 4th draft resolution on the future status of Kosovo which caused serious objections by Russia. [More]

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bulgaria Emerges as a Friend of Georgia’s

Georgian officials recently hosted an official delegation from Bulgaria. The country broke from its communist past through reforms that paved the way for NATO membership in 2004 and the European Union in 2007. Bulgaria, together with Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic, is a member of the New Group of Georgia’s Friends, a cluster of European countries which was founded in early 2005 to help Georgia with its Euro-Atlantic and European integration processes.

The Bulgarian delegation was headed by Bulgaria’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Ivailo Kalfin, who met with his Georgian counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Gela Bezhuashvili, as well as the Georgian prime minister and deputy parliamentary speaker. The delegation also included some twenty Bulgarian businessmen who came to study investment opportunities in Georgia. During this high-profile visit it became especially obvious that Bulgaria’s cooperation with and support for Georgia are developing actively in various directions. [More]

Georgia begins boosting Iraq contingent to 2,000

A group of Georgian servicemen departed Monday for Kuwait as the ex-Soviet republic began boosting its contingent in Iraq from 850 to 2,000 troops. The increase, approved by parliament last month, underscores the Georgian leadership's dedication to cultivating close ties with the United States. President Mikhail Saakashvili has courted the West and sought to lessen the influence of neighboring giant Russia. [More]

Monday, July 16, 2007

Kremlin tears up arms pact with Nato

President Vladimir Putin yesterday signalled that Russia was on a new and explosive collision course with Nato when he dumped a key arms control treaty limiting the deployment of conventional forces in Europe.

Putin said Moscow was unilaterally withdrawing from the Soviet-era Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty because of 'extraordinary circumstances that affect the security of the Russian Federation', the Kremlin said. These required 'immediate measures'. [More]

Russia: No More Peacekeepers in South Ossetia

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) - Russia is not planning to reinforce its peacekeepers in Georgia's self-proclaimed republic of South Ossetia following recent tensions in the region, the first deputy commander of the ground forces said Tuesday.

The situation in the conflict zone recently deteriorated over damaged water pipelines leading to South Ossetia, and Georgia constructing a road in the area without consulting local authorities. Russian peacekeepers blocked the construction urging consultations between the two sides. [More]

Saturday, July 14, 2007

UN probe of Georgia attack does not assign blame

A UN-led probe of an apparent ground and air attack on a disputed gorge controlled by the former Soviet republic of Georgia reached no conclusion on who was to blame, in a report published on Friday.

But some diplomats said the findings could support Georgian charges Russian helicopters were involved in the March 11 attack in the Kodori gorge in the breakaway republic of Abkhazia. Russia has denied the allegation.

The area has been a long-standing flashpoint between Tbilisi and Moscow, which lends moral support to Abkhazia. A spying controversy and trade disputes have been other symptoms of tensions over Georgia's pro-Western leanings. [More]

Image courtesy of The Economist, "Georgia Gets a Rocket"

Thursday, June 28, 2007

South Ossetia Goes to Europe

Dmitry Sanakoev, head of the temporary administration of South Ossetia, in Tbilisi

Head of the temporary administration of South Ossetia Dmitry Sanakoev appeared before the European Parliament committee on cooperation with Georgia yesterday in Brussels. In Tskhinvali, Sanakoev's authority is not recognized and he is considered to have been installed by Tbilisi. The opportunity he was given to address the Europarliament shows that the European community intends to discuss the Georgian-Ossetian conflict specifically with him, rather than the de facto head of the unrecognized republic Eduard Kokoity. That means that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's plan to return South Ossetia to Georgia is coming along successfully. [More]

Georgia: "Alternative" South Ossetia Leader Says Europe Key to Peace

An unprecedented three-day visit to Brussels by Georgia-backed "alternative" South Ossetia leader Dmitri Sanakoyev is the latest step in Tbilisi’s campaign to align conflict resolution in Georgia with European, rather than Russian, interests. Despite Georgian optimism, some international observers note that there is little chance the mission will result in Sanakoyev’s inclusion in peace talks over the South Ossetia conflict zone.

In a June 26 speech to the European Union-Georgian Parliamentary Cooperation Committee in Brussels, Sanakoyev told parliamentarians that it is his "deep belief" that Europe is "the key" to conflict resolution in Georgia. Sanakoyev shied away from details about the region’s 15-year conflict with Georgia or his own role in that struggle. Instead, the onetime separatist fighter concentrated on the need for dialogue between Georgians and Ossetians and the potential role of the EU as a mediator. [More]

US Official Chastises Russia on South Ossetia, Kokoity Denies Corruption Charges

Russia is threatening Georgia's territorial integrity by "giving renewed support to separatist regimes and issuing veiled threats to recognize breakaway regions," says a top US official. Tbilisi agrees, unveiling its unilateral annulment of a Georgian-Russian treaty on South Ossetia in a denouncement of Russian investments in South Ossetia.

"…We want to work with Russia to help resolve these conflicts [in the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia] peacefully. Russian-Georgian relations, after a period of extreme tension, have shown tentative signs of improvement, but we hope that Moscow does more to normalize relations. Russia should end the economic and transportation sanctions it imposed against Georgia last fall," declared Daniel Fried (pictured), US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs on June 21. [More]

Georgia Suggests Russia Overthrow Kokoity Regime

Eduard Kokoity, president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, sensing that he is being squeezed off the political scene

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with his Georgian colleague Gela Bezhuashvili in Istanbul today at the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization summit. Kommersant has learned that Tbilisi will propose that Moscow break off its ties with president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia and deal exclusively with head of the temporary administration of South Ossetia Dmitry Sanakoev. Georgia took efforts to make the suggestion hard to refuse. [More]

Monday, June 25, 2007

Economic Pacts with United States Reflect Progress in Georgia

A three-part package of economic cooperation initiatives signed recently by Georgia and the United States underscores the strong economic ties between the two countries and Georgia's steady economic progress since its "Rose Revolution" of 2003, US officials say.

On June 21, the United States and Georgia signed an "open skies" cooperation agreement expanding and liberalizing bilateral civil aviation relations. The same day, the US Trade and Development Agency granted Georgia almost half a million dollars to develop the Georgian tourism sector. On June 20, both countries signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) that establishes a platform for expanding bilateral trade and investment relations. [More]

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Open Skies Between Georgia and US

Georgia and the United States signed a comprehensive Open Skies agreement, expanding and liberalizing bilateral civil aviation relations between the two countries.

The agreement was signed by Georgian Economy Minister Giorgi Arveladze and Assistant Secretary for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs Daniel S. Sullivan in Washington on June 21. [More]

Tbilisi Annuls Treaty on S.Ossetia

An agreement allowing for Russian investment in economic rehabilitation in the South Ossetian conflict zone has been annulled by the Georgian president. The disclosure, inexplicably, has only come to light now, three months after President Saakashvili issued a decree on April 20.

The decision is seen as a sign of Tbilisi's unease with Russian funding of certain programs in South Ossetia, which have been undertaken without prior agreement with the Georgian side. [More]

European Investment Bank, Georgia Agree on Cooperation

Georgia and the EU’s long-term lending institution, the European Investment Bank (EIB), have signed an agreement paving the way for EIB investment in Georgia.

A framework agreement providing the basis for EIB’s activities in Georgia was signed by Georgian Finance Minister Lexo Alexishvili and EIB Vice-President Torsten Gersfelt in Tbilisi on June 21. [More]

Georgia: Investment Overview

Georgia is a bridge connecting several economic regions and is a particularly important transit country. Located at the crossroads of Europe and Central Asia, it serves as a natural transport corridor. Georgia is the shortest transit route between the West and Central Asia for transportation of oil and gas as well as dry cargo.

Reforms and initiatives, carried out by the Georgian Government since 2003, aiming at improving investment climate in the country, produced positive results as evidenced from international studies and evaluations. [More]

US grant will help develop tourism in Georgia

The US government agreed Wednesday to give the Republic of Georgia a grant to promote tourism there. The grant was confirmed in a signing ceremony held at the US Trade and Development Agency offices in Arlington, Va.

This grant will be used for the country's Tourism Development and Investment Plan technical assistance project. [More]

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Georgia Builds Energy Corridor to Cut Ties With Russian Masters

The white marble Stalin museum in Gori, Georgia, the dictator's hometown, will soon be overshadowed by a new attraction: a military base built to train Georgian troops for NATO missions (pictured above).

Gori's transformation from Soviet pilgrimage site to an outpost of the U.S.-led military alliance underscores Georgia's drive to sever its ties to Russia. Georgia's determination to assert its independence, and its location between oil-rich central Asia and the Black Sea, has made it a conduit for energy shipments to world markets. [More]

US, Republic of Georgia sign economic agreement

The Republic of Georgia and the United States agreed Wednesday to establish a forum aimed at boosting trade and investment. The deal sets up a council for the two countries to discuss ways to make it easier to do business. Deputy US Trade Representative John Veroneau and Georgian Minister of Economic Development George Arveladze signed the agreement at a ceremony in Washington.

The U.S. says the trade and investment framework agreement will help bolster a close ally in the Caucasus that has been praised for implementing democratic and economic change since the Rose Revolution in 2003. [More]

Basescu against Russia's stance on CFE treaty

During the GUAM summit of ex-Soviet states at Baku, the Romanian President Traian Basescu emphasized on the region’s importance for energy security and pointed out the need for reduction of Europe’s dependency on Russian energy.

GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Republic of Moldova) regional bloc is seen as a counterweight to the Kremlin-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). [More]

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Nations seek to offset Russia's clout

Leaders of four ex-Soviet nations on Tuesday met to discuss ways to counter balance Russia's influence in the Caspian and Black Sea basins. The summit is the first for the organisation called GUAM Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development, since its four members Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova, agreed last year to deepen ties and cooperation.

Over the past few years, Russia has cut energy supplies to Ukraine and Belarus over price disputes, temporarily halting supplies to Europe. The US And European Union officials have spoken of the need to reduce dependence on Russia's energy exports and publicly backed GUAM. Officials from GUAM member states have denied that the organisation is anti-Russian, but three of the four members have had serious trade or other disputes with Moscow, and Russia is deeply enmeshed in unresolved separatist conflicts in Georgia and Moldova. [More]

Prospects of Cooperation under GUAM-Japan and GUAM-Poland Formats Discussed

On the 18th of June 2007 in Baku, Azerbaijan, the first meeting between the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development and Japan took place at the level of the GUAM Council of Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Mr. Mitoji Yabunaka, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan. The meeting was held in the framework of the Second Summit of the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development in Baku on the 18th to the 19th of June 2007.

As an alternative to CIS the four post-Soviet republics Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova, established this format in 1999, during the summit of the head of state of the European Union member-countries in Strasbourg. In 1999 Uzbekistan joined the organization, but left after four years. GUAM was established as an economic alliance of countries – potential participants of energy resource transportation projects. [More]

Romanian President Basescu ''reminds'' Russia about troops in Moldova, Georgia

Romanian President Traian Basescu criticized the interpretation of international treaties such as the that of Conventional Forces in Europe during a speech held at a GUAM summit in Baku on Tuesday. He also mentioned the need that Russian troops be withdrawn from the Moldovan Republic and Georgia, a withdrawal that he said should have occurred in 1999.

Romania backed the CFE treaty, Basescu says, but argues that it must be related to Russia’s compliance with its promises at an Istanbul summit last decade, regarding the withdrawal of Russian troups from Moldova. Russian authorities have been warning that they may reconsider Moscow’s involvement with the CFE treaty given the current United States plans for a missile shield in Europe. [More]

Old topic of Mekhetian’s repatriation sparks new controversy

Last week by the initiative of MP Pavle Kublashvili the draft law on “persons deported from Georgia in 1940s by the Soviet Regime” was submitted to the parliament. According to Kublashvili, who is the author of this draft version, the draft version aims to provide legal tools for repatriation of the deportees and their descendants to their historic homeland.

The draft law proposes that deportees and their family members, including their grandchildren, will be eligible for repatriation. According to the proposal, those willing to return should apply at the nearest Georgian consulate or at the Georgian Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation, any time between January 1 and December 31, 2008. [More]

Veteran’s ‘Giselle,’ Full of Spontaneity, and No Apologies

While glasnost was a buzzword, no ballerina exemplified it better than Nina Ananiashvili. When, after a long hiatus, the Bolshoi began again to tour Britain and America in 1986-7, she was its youngest star, marvelously fresh in the full-length “Raymonda” and “Giselle.” She soon began interleaving her Bolshoi career with engagements in the West. She has danced Balanchine with New York City Ballet, Ashton and MacMillan with the Royal Ballet of London, Bournonville with the Royal Danish Ballet, Petipa with the Kirov Ballet: That is, she, like no one else, has gone to all the main choreographic centers of ballet classicism to dance their home choreography, and she remains too a principal guest artist with American Ballet Theater. (She dances “Swan Lake” there on June 28.)

As that “-ashvili” end to her name suggests, this international star comes from Georgia, and her main focus today is as artistic director and prima ballerina of the State Ballet of the Republic of Georgia. That company is now touring America with a range of repertory ancient and modern. [More]

Azeri Oil Oozes through Georgia with Turkey and Romania Next of the List

SOCAR is the government-owned entity responsible for all aspects of exploration and development related to oil and gas fields both onshore and offshore for the Republic of Azerbaijan. One of the largest companies in the world, it employs 70,000 people. Since 1994, SOCAR has signed 25 major production sharing agreements (PSAs) with consortiums of foreign oil companies, plus two major pipeline agreements: BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) and SCP (Southern Caucasus Pipeline).

In 2006 SOCAR management decided to expand its activity in Georgia as well and acquired Kulevi oil terminal. Socar Energy Georgia, which was established in August to steer Socar’s operation in Georgia, has far reaching goals in mind. This new-born and open joint-stock company intends to invest in various economic projects in Georgia. General Director of Socar Energy Georgia Mahir Mammedov is elaborating on them. [More]

Monday, June 18, 2007

Gulf Emirate Deputy Ruler on Business Trip to Georgia

The deputy ruler of the Gulf emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah (RAK), Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al-Qassimi, is visiting Georgia to look into further investment opportunities.

Ras Al-Khaimah, which is in the north of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is the source of a number of investment projects in Georgia, through its real estate company Rakeen Development. [More]

Czech Republic Possibly Georgia's Top 2007 Investor

Praising the Czech Republic as potentially Georgia's top investor this year, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli said there are several new investment projects the countries have under consideration.

Although Noghaideli did not specify what these projects are, the media speculated that there is an interest from Czech companies to invest in different infrastructure projects in Georgia, including in railway and roads. [More]

Georgia: Council Of Europe Envoy Discusses Lawsuit Against Russia

Zurab Chiaberashvili

Georgia's permanent representative to the Council of Europe, Zurab Chiaberashvili, is the driving force behind Georgia's lawsuit against Moscow at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The suit refers to the mass deportation of ethnic Georgians from Russia in the fall of 2006, a measure widely seen as retaliation for the arrest in Tbilisi of four Russian officers on spying charges. Chiaberashvili visited RFE/RL, where he spoke with correspondent Claire Bigg. [More]

Official Promises Republic Of Georgia Has Contained Swine Fever

A series of measures have prevented a major spread of African swine fever following an outbreak in the republic of Georgia, the deputy agriculture minister told the Associated Press. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization had warned that the disease could have a catastrophic economic impact unless it was contained. [More]

CzechRep dismisses Russian accusation of breach of CFE treaty

The Czech Republic dismisses Russian accusations that it does not honour its commitments under the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) of 1999, at an extraordinary international conference on CFE today.

Veronika Smigolova-Kuchynova, Czech Foreign Ministry department head, resolutely dismissed the accusation which Russia made in its opening statement at the conference as well as in the diplomatic note in which it asked for the conference to be convoked. Smigolova-Kuchynova said the Czech Republic honours all national ceilings set in the treaty for particular weapons systems and that it repeatedly informed the international public about this in the past. [More]

Saakashvili: France is Georgia’s 'Very Strong Ally'

France is Georgia’s “very strong ally” in Europe, President Saakashvili said after a meeting with his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, in Paris on June 13. The meeting was described as “fantastic.”

“In general we have always enjoyed France’s support, but now the situation has radically changed and this support has become more concrete in absolutely all fields,” Saakashvili said. He said President Sarkozy was “a politician in a really strong position in Europe.” [More]

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

NATO makes concession to Russia on arms treaty

In a major step to address the aftermath of the Cold War, NATO is expected to argue Thursday that it will meet Russia halfway on its objections to a key conventional arms treaty that Moscow says has hindered its effort to tamp down violence in Chechnya.

In return for reconsidering Russian troop levels along its flanks, NATO first wants Russia to implement the adapted treaty. This entails pulling its remaining troops out of Georgia as well as Moldova, where Russia has stationed troops and ammunition dumps. [More]

Czech Republic promises to back Georgia completely

The Czech Republic promises to back Georgia completely in recovering territorial sovereignty and becoming a member of Euro-Atlantic structures.

Prime Minister of Czech Republic made this statement after holding a meeting with Zurab Noghaideli. Mirek Topolanek excluded the possibility of matching the Kosovo model to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. [More]

New ambitious benchmarks: Georgia hosting 200,000 tourists

Within the framework of the development assistance programs to Georgia, Greece has begun implementing a fascinating development project in the field of tourism.

Between June 5th and 7th, a delegation from the Ministry of Tourism of the Hellenic Republic (Greece) along with the President of the Greek Organization of Vocational Tourism Training, visited Georgia to interface with interested stakeholders and get a glimpse of the tourism potential that Georgia could offer. During the visit, discussions were held on a project concerning the development in Tourism in Georgia to be financed by Greek Aid in the framework of Georgian-Greek cooperation. The Department of Tourism of the Ministry of Economic Development of Georgia as well as the Ministry of Education Science of Georgia are all taking part in this new and innovative plan to bring out more effective means to facilitate tourism in Georgia, and encourage the masses to explore Georgia as a new major tourist destination point.

“Tourism cooperation between Greece and Georgia is producing excellent results. Tourism is definitely a crucial sector of the Georgian economy and the creation of the school will be a big step forward,” stated Eleftherios Anghelopoulos, the Greek Ambassador to Georgia. [More]

Prime Minister Defends Territorial Integrity

Zurab Noghaideli being interviewed in Prague (RFE/RL)

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli visited RFE/RL's Prague broadcast center today. He sat down with RFE/RL Georgian Service Director David Kakabadze to discuss a number of key developments in the region. Here some excerpts from that conversation.

RFE/RL: Two days ago, the presidents of Georgia and Russia held a meeting in St. Petersburg. Not much is known about the meeting. It was announced that the talk concerned removal of sanctions imposed by Russia and the issue of territorial integrity. The latter topic is now being addressed within the context of Kosovo's status. [More]

Monday, June 11, 2007

Georgian Prime Minister to Visit Czech Republic

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli will begin a three-day working visit to the Czech Republic on June 11.

He plans talks with his counterpart, Mirek Topolánek, as well as executives from the Czech state-run Export Bank, according to the Georgian PM's press office. [More]

Georgia rejects claims it planned abduction of S. Ossetia leader

Allegations made by Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia that Georgia plotted the abduction or assassination of the South Ossetian president are absurd, a Georgian Interior Ministry official said Saturday.

Earlier Saturday, the South Ossetian Committee of National Security (KGB) claimed that the Georgian Interior Ministry received a go-ahead from the authorities to conduct a special operation to kidnap or assassinate South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity. "It is absurd. I have nothing more to add," Shota Khizanishvili, the interior minister's chief of staff, said. [More]

Russian WTO entry delayed by sour Georgia relations

Russia will complete WTO talks no sooner than in the fall, Russian Economy Minister German Gref told an economic forum in St. Petersburg today. The minister admitted that he could not specify a date or even month at the moment, but was hopeful that a few more bilateral accords would be signed by the fall.

As reported earlier, Russia has yet to hold talks about its accession to the WTO and sign agreements with Cambodia and Guatemala. Moreover, following recent unproductive negotiations with Georgia, Russia still has several outstanding issues to settle with the former Soviet republic. [More]

Georgia OKs 2,000-troop contingent for Iraq

Georgia's parliament on Friday overwhelmingly approved President Mikhail Saakashvili's proposal to increase the ex-Soviet republic's military contingent in Iraq to 2,000 servicemen, more than doubling its size.

The 145-2 vote underscored the Georgian leadership's dedication to cultivating close ties with the United States. Saakashvili has courted the West and sought to lessen the influence of neighboring giant Russia, which dominated Georgia for most of the past two centuries. [More]

Berdymuhammedov, Burjanadze discuss cooperation in energy and transportation

The chairperson of the Georgian parliament, Nino Burjanadze, arrived in Ashgabat on an official visit yesterday. The Georgian delegation was received by Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov at the presidential palace. The meeting was also attended by deputy chairman of the Georgian parliament Mikheil Machavariani, chairman of the Euro-integration committee of the Georgian parliament David Bakradze and Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of Georgia to Turkmenistan, Alexi Petriashvili.

During the talks the sides informed each other on the priorities of development of their countries and discussed the issue of strengthening the institution of parliamentarism. In this context, the sides spoke in favor of establishing close inter-parliamentary ties between Turkmenistan and Georgia. [More]