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Semneby again calls for talks

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, June 5
On Thursday EU Special Representative in the South Caucasus Peter Semneby met the non-Parliamentary opposition leaders as part of his two-day visit to Tbilisi and once more called on the sides to start dialogue. Irakli Alasania and David Usupashvili from the Alliance for Georgia and the leader of the Way of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, attended the hour-long meeting in Tbilisi Marriot Hotel. Georgia’s former UN Ambassador Alasania said before the meeting that the sides would ask Semneby to give his assessment of the May 26 demonstrations. Alasania said it is “obvious” that neither the Government nor the opposition alone will be able to calm the crisis in the country.

“We will have very specific proposals to discuss at the negotiating table. We refer to snap Presidential elections, point one of our 6-point proposal. We will also present what we mean by constitutional changes and changing the election environment,” Alasania told journalists. Salome Zourabichvili stated that the Government is refusing to see what is happening in Georgia. “We will raise this issue once more with Peter Semneby,” she said.

After the meeting both the opposition leaders and the EU envoy stressed the necessity of starting negotiations. Semneby expressed his concern about the political confrontation in Georgia and said that a “political process” should start and political forces should take this responsibility on themselves. “Political confrontation should not have a negative effect on the economy and security of the country. These are the main messages,” the EU special representative noted. Semneby said negotiations were the only way out of the current situation, saying that the tensions in the country should be calmed through talks.

Alasania said that time is working against Georgia and “there’s no time to waste” as “the more time we waste, the deeper the crisis will become. We state that neither the opposition alone, nor the Government, can resolve the crisis, especially by ignoring the current processes,” he noted. “We explained to Peter Semneby that we are waiting for a response from the Government, in order to hold a meeting and find ways out of the crisis jointly. It is a pity that there have been no signs of any possible meeting being held. Today we once more said that we are ready for negotiations and asked the EU Special Representative to take a more active part in catalyzing the process and raising the issue with Government officials,” Alasania said.

The leader of the Way of Georgia said she is also ready to participate in negotiations, if they are aimed at solving the crisis. “The country is facing a deep crisis, which is becoming more and more acute day by day. We are ready to drag the country out of it. I, personally, am ready to do everything to save the country,” Zourabichvili said.

Georgian Parliament Speaker David Bakradze responded to the non-Parliamentary opposition’s claims that the Government was taking no actions about dialogue. “It is time the opposition got down to concrete actions, rather than merely talking about a dialogue,” Bakradze said. “Dialogue is a process and the Government is waiting for the opposition to get involved in this process.” He said that if the opposition have anything to say about the election code issues or Constitution they can join the commissions working on these issues.

Former Parliament Speaker and leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia Nino Burjanadze, who also met Semneby on Thursday, said that dialogue is just “PR” and a “game” for the Government. “When, during the crisis, the President can’t find the time to stay in the country and work seriously on the issues which will help Georgia overcome the crisis, then I think there is no chance that a dialogue would end with beneficial results for the country,” Burjanadze noted. She said she had called on the EU to get involved in the processes more actively because “it is obvious that no steps have been taken by the Government to discharge the crisis.”

While the EU, part of the opposition and the Government reiterate that there is no alternative to dialogue, political analysts say calls for dialogue have become “stereotypical”. Political commentator Ramaz Sakvarelidze said that despite the talk of negotiations, neither side is genuinely interested in starting talks. “The words “dialogue” and “negotiations” have become popular in Georgia, because the West greets these words with applause. The EU should call for justice, not just for dialogue,” he stated. “The EU and the Government fail to realize what happened late on May 26, when the people, thinking the opposition might be stepping back, tried to take radical steps independently, without the opposition’s help. If these people continue to live in the same environment which they have been protesting against, they will adopt lynch law. So the EU should be more active in calling for justice, for if the situation stays the same, the people will come out into the streets and start throwing stones, and there are definite signs of that,” Sakvarelidze told The Messenger.