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"