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Bryza meets Georgian Ministers and opposition

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, March 16
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza visited Georgia on March 12-13. This was his first visit to Tbilisi as a representative of the new US administration. Bryza met the Georgian Ministers and representatives of the opposition.

Bryza said that US relations with Georgia are not relations with only one person or political team. He reiterated the support of the US for the development of democracy in the country.

Bryza commented on the statement of Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze that Georgia is ready to host US bases if requested. The US Deputy Assistant Secretary said it was a “very generous” statement but added that the issue has not yet been discussed between the countries. He said the main issue at present is working out ways to implement the Charter on Strategic Partnership between Georgia and the US. “We are talking about how to help Georgia rethink its strategic military doctrine and rebuild its military forces and fulfill the criteria for accession to NATO,” Bryza stated.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State touched upon the issue of the opposition rallies demanding President Saakashvili’s resignation planned for April 9. He said the April event will “energize society,” adding that every Georgian has a right to express their own opinion within the bounds of the law. “I hope that the protest will lead to a direct dialogue between the Government and opposition,” Bryza noted. He also resolved the misunderstanding over his March 13 statement about the date of the Presidential elections. Speaking about these after a meeting with Parliament Speaker David Bakradze, Bryza had said that political discussions in Georgia would “help strengthen Georgian democracy, which is the highest interest of ours here in this part of the world, and get [the country] ready for the next round of elections scheduled for 2013.” This statement was perceived as Bryza supporting holding elections in 2013 as scheduled. However, later he said “The United States has nothing to do with the setting of the election date. We have no way or no right to judge which date is the proper date. That’s a decision only the people of Georgia can take,” Bryza stated at his press conference on March 14.

Bryza said that problematic issues related to Georgia were discussed at the meetings with representatives of the Georgian opposition. He noted they spoke about the need to carry out some reforms. “Everybody agrees that more needs to be done to improve judicial reform and media freedom, strengthening democratic institutions and the separation of powers, ensuring rule of law and prison reform,” Bryza noted. However, he said that the opposition had told him that there have been some positive developments since November 2007.

Bryza met the former Parliament Speaker and current leader of the Democratic Movement – United Georgia Nino Burjanadze on the second day of his visit. Burjanadze said she informed Bryza about the real situation in the country and outlined for him the vision of the opposition. “I explained why the whole spectrum of the opposition has become so radical and why we demand the President’s resignation. We talked about the necessity of this process being conducted in accordance with the constitution. We will do everything to ensure that this is a peaceful process. But I also told him that I do not exclude possible provocations from the Government,” Burjanadze said after the meeting.

The leader of the Alliance for Georgia, Georgia’s former Ambassador to the UN Irakli Alasania, said that he had discussed with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State the possible development of events and ways out of the situation. “The US is greatly interested that everything happens in accordance with the constitution. A dialogue is needed to peacefully express the will of the people. The opposition and the Government share responsibility for this,” Alasania noted.

At the end of his two-day visit to Tbilisi Bryza met Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II. Bryza said the Patriarch outlined an initiative to create a peace zone in the Caucasus region through cooperation between Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Bryza noted the US supports creating a peace zone in this region.