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]

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Russian military withdrawing from Georgia

The Russian military is quitting the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Moving arms and munitions can be done tactfully by railways – often under cover of darkness. Railways are helping the disengagement of Russian forces from Georgia away from the glare of publicity. Trains are being used to move tanks and guns away from Batumi military base back to Russia. The withdrawal was resumed in May after an 18 month hold up. A further pullout is scheduled from the Akhalkalaki military base. [More]

Iranian art exhibition in Georgia

An exhibition of calligraphy works and miniature paintings by contemporary Iranian artists is currently underway in the Republic of Georgia.

The exhibition held at the Tbilisi State Academy of Art showcases a number of artworks by Pouran Maleki and Azizollah Golkar-zadeh. Several Iranian and Georgian cultural and artistic figures, as well as a large number of Iranians living in that country attended the opening ceremony on Thursday. [More]

Water supply resumed in Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone

Water supply in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone was resumed Thursday, a spokesman for the Georgian state minister for conflict resolution said.

South Ossetia, a breakaway Georgian republic, asked Tbilisi to help repair the damaged water pipes going to the republic via Georgian villages. Tbilisi, which seeks to reinstate control over the republic, said South Ossetia must address its "alternative president," Dmitry Sankoyev, appointed by Georgia. "Upon Georgia's insistent request, ... water supplies to Georgian and Ossetian populations have been resumed in the area," the spokesman said. [More]

MIA Demands Release of Georgians Illegally Kidnapped By Tskhinvali

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia categorically demanded the immediate release of the citizens of Georgia illegally detained and kidnapped by the de facto regime of Tskhinvali.

According to an official statement of the MIA: "On June 2 2007, the members of Kokoity's illegal armed group, so called Opolchentsi: Arkadi Dzeranov, David Tskhovrebov (nicknamed 'Fox') and Giorgi Tedeev, residents of the village Tsnelisi, in the Znauri district kidnapped two citizens of Georgia - Rostom Nozadze and Vasil Gelashvili, residents of the village Kindzati, in the Khashuri district. The motive of the kidnapping is to get a ransom." [More]

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Georgia Bans Russian Military Transport Flyovers

At the end of last week, the Russian Foreign Ministry demanded that Georgia “immediately stop its sabotage of the Agreement on the Organization of Transit of Military Cargo and Personal across Georgian Territory” and again accused Tbilisi of inflaming tensions in bilateral relations. Georgia responding, demanding that the Russian Ministry of Defense pay its debt for the servicing of military planes when they fly over Georgian territory.

Mikhail Kamynin, a spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that the ministry was referring to “Georgia’s ignoring the request for... flights by Russian planes between December 8 and 22” to the Russian military base in the Armenian city of Gyumri. Moscow took that as an “intentional attempt to impede not only normal functioning of the base at Gyumri,” but the withdrawal of Russian of Russian forces from Georgia as well. On Saturday, Georgian Ambassador to Russia Irakly Chubinishvili was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, where he was informed of the Russian position. [More]

Burjanadze Briefs Foreign Diplomats over S. Ossetia

Georgian Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze met with foreign diplomats accredited in Georgia on June 5 and briefed them over the recent water shortage in the South Ossetian conflict zone.

Speaking before the meeting at the parliamentary session Burjanadze said that it is “an artificially created problem.” [More]

Tbilisi Pushes Tskhinvali to Cooperate with Sanakoev

Authorities in Tbilisi said that Tskhinvali’s refusal to cooperate with the Tbilisi-loyal provisional administration in South Ossetia was the reason for the protracted water crisis in the region.

The Office of the Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues said in a statement on June 5 that the head of the OSCE Mission to Georgia, Roy Reeve and the head of the South Ossetian provisional administration, Dimitri Sanakoev, had agreed during a meeting on May 31 that “joint efforts were needed for a comprehensive rehabilitation of the entire water supply system” in the region. [More]

Monday, June 4, 2007

France Coach Keeps Pressure Ahead of Georgia Game

France coach Raymond Domenech maintained the pressure on his side ahead of Wednesday's Euro 2008 qualifier against Georgia in Auxerre. In order to clinch his group, Domenech explained, "we have to beat Lithuania in October in Nantes." However, France first have to see off Georgia, which he says will not be as easy as it might seem. [More]

Georgia Breakaway Provinces Eye Kosovo as Precedent

The leaders of Georgia's separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia appealed to the United Nations on Monday to put them in line for international recognition after Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo.

Abkhazia's Sergei Bagapsh and South Ossetia's Eduard Kokoity also said they hoped for stronger support from their patron Russia now that it finds itself increasingly at odds with the West.

Georgia, whose pro-Western government is at odds with Moscow, accuses Russia of trying to annex the regions and demands that Russian peacekeepers be removed. It rules out independence for Ossetia and Abkhazia. [More]

Georgia Allowed to Join EU Political Statements

Georgia has been given the right to subscribe to European Union political statements in a move signaling tremendous progress in the South Caucasus nation's drive to gain EU membership, diplomats said.

This motion was part of a Georgia-EU action plan agreed last November. The final decision was reached during bilateral consultations in Brussels in mid-May. [More]

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Georgian Infantry Battalion Celebrates Independence Day

The Republic of Georgia has been around for as many as 2,600 years. Although its history is rich with tradition, Georgia hasn't always been able to call itself a free country until May 26, 1918 when it broke apart from the Trans-Caucasus Commissariat.

To celebrate their 89 years of independence, soldiers from the 33rd Light Infantry Battalion, 3rd Brigade of the Georgian Army, stationed in Baghdad's "International Zone" held a ceremony and feast to honor their country's independence that their fellow countrymen had fought for in the past. [More]

Soldiers of the 33rd Light Infantry Battalion, 3rd Brigade of the Georgian Army salute their colors as their national anthem, Tavisupleba (Liberty), plays during a ceremony held on Forward Operating Base Union to honor their independence day, May 26.

Tbilisi Firm on Russia’s WTO Entry Terms

Russian negotiators have failed to convince their Georgian counterparts to soften their stance over Russia’s WTO membership terms during the talks on May 31.

Tamar Kovziridze, the Georgian Deputy Economy Minister, who was negotiating with the chief Russian negotiator from the Economy Ministry, Maksim Medvedkov, for seven hours in Tbilisi, said Georgia is not against Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). “But we want Russia to follow its commitments undertaken back in 2004,” she added. [More]

A Political Party for Georgia's Former Defense Minister?

Media speculation has run rampant in recent weeks that former Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili (pictured) plans to set up a political party in opposition to his one-time mentor, President Mikheil Saakashvili. The party’s foundation has been described as "imminent." But, with no word from Okruashvili, some political analysts are wondering what stands behind the rumors.

The story first broke on May 16 when both Rezonansi (Resonance), a Georgian newspaper with strong opposition leanings, and InterPressNews reported that Okruashvili had opened a party office in Tbilisi and was preparing to launch his opposition movement "next week." The office, however, never opened. [More]

Is South Caucasus 'Region’ an Artificial Construct?

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia are commonly grouped together under a common label -- the "South Caucasus." But evidence of such unity is hard to find on the streets of the nations’ capitals.

In Tbilisi, one man, asked whether he considered Georgia part of a regional bloc, said simply, "No, I don’t. Georgia is Georgia." Asked if Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan had anything in common, he said, "Absolutely nothing." In Baku, the sentiment is similar, with a local resident saying: "I don’t want Azerbaijan to be in only the South Caucasus -- it should also be in stronger blocs."

And in the Armenian capital, one woman spoke nostalgically of a time when the three countries had a greater sense of unity. "We used to have many things in common," she said. "We were similar in our temperament, lifestyle, and human relationships; similar in almost everything. I never felt like an outsider in either Baku or Tbilisi." And now? "I think that all these things have changed a lot, and they’ve gotten worse -- in religious matters, and in other ways as well." [More]

Friday, June 1, 2007

Russia-NATO: Prospects of Cooperation

One of the major issues directly concerning the relations between Russia and NATO is the Alliance’s enlargement and accession of new members, the former Soviet republics (Ukraine and Georgia) to the Alliance, and also the issue of consequences of the open door policy followed by NATO and Russia’s attitude to this policy.

Now it is clear that in the course of enlargement NATO is turning into a more and more efficient organization. However, this does not lessen the threats connected with NATO enlargement, above all because the Alliance is establishing a new framework of interrelations within which the unexpected bilateral relations are being formed. For example, relations between the USA and Czech Republic or the USA and Poland have nothing to do with the issues of NATO enlargement or NATO transformation. For all that, they change the relations between Russia and the Western countries. [more]

Georgia: NATO by way of BMD

As Tbilisi extends its hand to the US and the latter's missile defense plans, some analysts believe it is also signaling its NATO aspirations.

In a 2 May interview with the UK daily Financial Times, Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili suggested that Tbilisi was ready to consider the installation of US ballistic missile defense (BMD) facilities on its territory. Bezhuashvili's words came as a surprise for many observers: Exactly two months before, Georgian officials denied that the US had made a request to host parts of its controversial missile shield. [more]

Metromedia buys Eastern European telecoms

Metromedia International Group Inc. has purchased the remaining 74.4 percent ownership interests in two communications companies in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Charlotte-based Metromedia paid $12.6 million for the shares in Telecom Georgia and Telenet.

Telecom Georgia is a provider of international long distance and local operator interconnection services in Georgia. Telenet markets Internet access and related data communications services. [more]