President Mikheil Saakashvili (left) welcomed Bidzina Ivanishvili (right) at the presidential palace in Tbilisi Tuesday. (Photo published by Ivanishvili.)

TBILISI, DFWatch — An extraordinary meeting took place in Tbilisi today, as President Mikheil Saakashvili received billionaire and election winner Bidzina Ivanishvili and his political partners at the presidential palace.

After Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition won the October 1 parliamentary election he is the logical candidate for prime minister and there has been talk about a possible meeting between him and the president.

The meeting started at 12:00 and was attended by two groups of leading politicians who have been meeting in recent days to negotiate the handover of power.

Saakashvili and Ivanishvili shook hands before the meeting, but most media weren’t allowed in to take pictures. The meeting was highly unusual, both because the president rarely meets domestic opponents at all, and because this is the first time in the country’s history that government power will be passed on through election.

After the meeting, which lasted almost half an hour, Saakashvili and Ivansihvili commented briefly.

“It’s good we managed to meet. It’s good that Saakashvili made that statement after the election, which I praised him for,” Bidzina Ivanishvili said.

He said today’s meeting was a continuation of a healthy politics, which he and his political team have introduced to Georgian politics. He said the it will be something lasting in Georgian history, as they managed to change government by democratic means.

“We will treat our opponents not how they deserve, but how our country deserves,” Ivanishvili said.

He said the meeting had been about foreign policy.

“The stated foreign policy of both sides are compatible – our aspiration will steadily be towards Europe and Euro Atlantic space and Georgia will manage to become member of NATO.”

President Saakashvili said a historical process is taking place as it’s the first time the majority of government functions have been peacefully transferred in a former Soviet country in this region.

“The Georgian people made its own choice and we respect it,” he said.

Saakashvili noted that the two sides have fundamental differences about many political and national issues.

“But I, as president, who is a guarantee for the constitution, will ensure that the transfer of functions between governments will happen without any excesses, bearing in mind the interests of the Georgian people.”

He said they should concentrate on the future despite political differences.