TBILISI, DFWatch–A statement by the U.S Congress about defense cooperation with Georgia caused debate in the country on Saturday. Government officials claim the congress was misled by a lack of, or incorrect, information about current events, while their opponents claim the statement is serious.
In addition to thanking Georgia for its participating in ISAF operation and expressing condolences for the Georgian soldiers who have died during the mission, congress spend several paragraphs on pointing out that the current government ‘takes a series of measures against former officials and current political opposition members that appear to be motivated by political considerations’.
The statement points to the detention of former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili, who is now Secretary General of the United National Movement and who is thought to be still considered a candidate for president in the election this October.
“The measures taken by the Georgian Government against former officials and political opponents, apparently in part motivated by political considerations, may have a significant negative impact on cooperation between the United States and Georgia, including efforts to build a stronger relationship in political, economic, and security matters, as well as progress on integrating Georgia into international organizations,” the statement reads. “The United States must be unambiguous when democratic backsliding occurs in a key ally after a peaceful and democratic transfer of power between political parties.”
President Mikheil Saakashvili said he was shocked when he read this statement, adding that Georgia should listen to advice from a friendly country.
He said this is not a newspaper article or someone’s statement; this is serious.
“In fact, if the US won’t support us, we are left with a country of [Genady] Onishenko,” he said, referring to the Russian chief sanitary inspector who has repeatedly accused Georgia of conducting economic warfare against Russia by spreading swine flu.
The Speaker of Parliament Davit Usupashvili said Saturday that he requests to every country to send many observers to look closer at what is happening in Georgia, including court cases.
He said in many countries, detaining a persons who have been minister for years, causes an interest.
“That’s why it is quite natural the interest of our friendly state and their position is also natural that there shouldn’t be politically motivated arrests in Georgia,’ he said adding that the government and parliament shares this position.
Usupashvili remarked that despite this critical statement of congress ‘friendship of US-Georgia is not in threat in the future.’
Thea Tsulukiani, Minister of Justice, said the suspicions mentioned in Congress’ statement are groundless.
“We want to establish a culture in Georgia, within which there won’t be immunity from criminal law persecution only for being in government or the opposition,” she told journalists.
Ambassador to the US Archil Gegeshidze thinks the statement is the result of lack of information about current events and congress was misled by the ‘unilateral information provided by certain forces.’