“I wonder why my opponents did not respond to Mr. Appathurai’s comments? Why didn’t they enter into the debate with him?” Zurab Abashidze asks

Tbilisi, DFWatch – A cross-fire between political team of the Former Defense Minister and Georgia’s Special Envoy to Negotiations with Russia went sour after the latter’s remarks over Georgia’s NATO membership prospects.

Zurab Abashidze, the Special Envoy, said few days ago that Georgia will not join NATO in the near future.

This has led to criticism from the opposition, especially from the United National Movement of former President, Mikheil Saakashvili, and Free Democrats of Irakli Alasania, former Minister of Defense and one time political ally of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition. They believe this statement is a clear sign of the government’s intention to pursue the Kremlin agenda, not less.

Since Irakli Alasania was fired for his ministry, followed by the resignation of his teammates, Foreign Affairs Minister, Maia Panjikidze, and Minister of the European Integration, Alexi Petriashvili, Free Democrats have been constantly accusing government of deviation from the pro-Western policies.

They claim Abashidze’s statements go beyond his mandate that is confined to economic and humanitarian issues, and insist on imposing public control on Zurab Abashidze in order him not to exceed his powers.

“It would be better if they (Free Democrats) impose public control on their incompetence,” Zurab Abashidze retorted.

“They know better than me that alliance membership is not of today’s or tomorrow’s prospect, but they need something to say to please the public,” Abashidze said to the Interpressnews agency in a lengthy interview published on Monday.

He insists that the statement with the same content was released on February 25 by James Appathurai, NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia.

“I wonder why my opponents did not respond to Mr. Appathurai’s comments? Why didn’t they enter into the debate with him?” Zurab Abashidze asked.

After these remarks Alasania team switched from limiting Abashidze powers to demanding his resignation that was aired on Monday by Zurab Abashidze, the envoys namesake, but not a relative, and a member of Free Democrats parliamentary faction.

“If anybody has a problem of competence and qualifications, it is the Georgian government,” Zurab Abashidze of Free Democrats said. “Zurab Abashidze (the Envoy) is a tool in the hands of the de facto prime minister and it would be better for him to resign,” Abashidze added, referring to Bidzina Ivanishvili, former PM, whom the Free Democrats accuse of ruling the country from behind the scenes.

The UNM has the same stance. However, they demand not only Abashidze’s resignation but eliminating the post of the Envoy to Russia altogether. They claim only Geneva talks format fits Georgia’s interests to relations with the Russian federation.

As Sergo Ratiani, a member of the UNM parliamentary faction, told DFWatch they demand  dismissal of the entire government and only Zurab Abashidze’s resignation would not solve the problem.