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Georgia should participate in the Sochi Olympiads, Zakareishvili stresses

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, October 11
Minister of Reintegration Paata Zakareishvili believes that the citizens’ petition should not influence the government’s decision regarding participation in the Sochi Olympiads next February. On October 10th, Zakareishvili made a statement regarding this issue to journalists.

"The Georgian government is under serious pressure not only from Russia not to participate in the Olympiads but also from the Georgian civil sector. We should not be influenced by a single petition, however." Zakareishvili stated.

The petition prepared by NGOs, civil sector, and ordinary citizens demands that Georgia boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics in February 2014. Rallies supporting the boycott are planned.

The petition is addressed to the government of Georgia-in particular the prime minister, the minister of sports and the Georgian Olympics Committee.

According to NGOs, the boycott will be a signal to the international community that Georgia will never recognize the occupation of its territory by Russia.

The petition has been published online and over 5,500 persons have signed it already.

Nino Lomjaria, Head of the Institute for Fair Elections and Democracy, stated that the petition is a sign of protest towards Russian actions not only regarding the Olympic Games.

She stressed that the “The government will have to take the people’s position into account."

"Georgia, not the Georgian government, will be represented at the Olympics. Thus, the choice should be made by the public.” Lomjaria stated.

Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze told The Messenger that Zakareishvili’s position is “partially acceptable.” Sakvarelidze shares the minister’s attitude that sport should not be involved in politics. However, according to Sakvarelidze, ignoring Russian’s obvious provocations is unacceptable.

“Russia is conducting a cold war with Georgia and Georgia should express its attitude concerning Russia’s actions." Sakvarelidze said, emphasizing that the best outcome for Georgia now is “participation of Georgian athletes in the Olympiads under the Olympic and not Georgia’s flag.”

“After the Olympiads, Russia will have to discuss the status of the occupied regions with the Georgian government and the international community." Sakvarelidze said.

Sakvarelidze believes that Russia will create as many problems as possible until then.

“Then, Russia will ‘solve’ problems that are insignificant so as to seem that it is willing to have constructive dialogue. For example, Russia will remove the barbed wired fences in Ditsi and Dvani and will state that it has already made a step for positive relations and that it is Georgia’s turn. In reality, the removal of the fences is insignificant and will not change the situation concerning the occupied regions." Sakvarelidze said.

According to the analyst Khatuna Lagazidze, Georgia’s participation in the Olympiads might be taken by the international community as “Georgian direct or indirect approval of Russia’s actions on Georgian territories."

“The Georgian government should not have any illusions that Russia will stop occupying our territories if some Georgian athletes ski in Sochi." Lagazidze said.

Elene Khoshtaria, co-founder of Georgian Reforms Associates (GRASS), thinks that Georgia should publicize Russia's violations. According to Khoshtaria, if the international community puts pressure on Russia and it brings results, Georgia’s participation in the Olympics will be justified. She added that if Russia ignores the international community's urgings, then Georgia should not participate in the Sochi Olympiads.