Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–The new defense minister in Georgia promises to sign a disputed military deal with France about air defense. Her predecessor Irakli Alasania claims the reason he was dismissed last November was that he wanted to go ahead with the same deal.

Alasania’s dismissal lead to his party the Free Democrats breaking ranks with the Georgian Dream coalition and becoming vocal critics of the government on a number of issues.

His dismissal happened right after a trip to France in late October to negotiate a deal about procurement of air defense systems. He later claimed that while he was there, one of his staff, Mindia Janelidze, who later succeeded him as minister, called him on behalf of the prime minister and asked him not to sign the agreement.

Just at the same time, five officials at the Defense Ministry were detained and charged with embezzlement. Alasania said he was convinced that the five were innocent and that their detention was part of a deliberate attempt to discredit the ministry. A few days later, more ministry employees were detained, on other charges.

Alasania and other Free Democrats have since accused the government of having changed Georgia’s foreign policy course away from a pro-western one in order not to ‘anger Russia’.

Mindia Janelidze took over as defense minister for a few months. He did not make a strong impression, but was seen as a caretaker minister.

In the course of a government reshuffle two weeks ago, the PM unexpectedly announced that also the defense minister would be replaced and appointed Tina Khidasheli to that post. She used to be MP from the Republican Party, a coalition member.

The PM and other government members have denied Alasania’s accusations that they interrupted him in signing the deal with France.

On Wednesday, Khidasheili said that she will sign the deal ‘very soon.’ This was one of the first topics she discussed with Janelidze.