Opposition members will attend Ebralidze's assembly
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, April 23Two leaders of the opposition National Council, Koba Davitashvili and Kakha Kukava, left for Russia on April 22 to attend the Assembly of the Georgian Diaspora in Saint Petersburg which will take place on April 23 and 24. It is organised by the Congress of Georgian Peoples, led by Aleksandre Ebralidze. A 60 man delegation has been invited from Georgia.
Ebralidze is a Russian oligarch( with Georgian origin) with close relations with the Russian ruling forces who has said he wants to run for President of Georgia at the next election. His friendly relations with Vladimir Putin and his past (it is frequently said by the Georgian Government and some opposition representatives that he has a criminal past) have made Ebralidze very much disliked by the present Georgian Government.
The main goal of our visit to Saint Petersburg is to form a Georgian lobby abroad. In the same way that the Armenian lobby is active all over the world the Georgian Diasporas should work for the unification and strengthening of the country. We will also meet members of the Russian Duma from both the majority and minority sides, Davitashvili said. Kukava said that travel to and from the assembly had been paid for by the Congress of Georgian Peoples but all other expenses, such as food and accommodation, will be covered by themselves. "Only transport expenses have been covered by them, all the rest we will cover with our own means. As for the meetings we will hold, the Georgian public and media will get detailed information on these, Kukava said.
The opposition leaders' departure for Saint Petersburg has aroused controversy. Analyst Ramaz Klimiashvili says that no one invited them to attend the assembly. "I am going, as I was sent an official invitation by the organisers, but the opposition representatives are attending on their own initiative, as no politicians have been officially invited. I do not know if they will be let in or not. These kinds of meetings are absolutely acceptable. Georgian Diaspora representatives from many countries will discuss important issues concerning the problems of Georgian people abroad, but if political or somehow unacceptable themes are discussed I will leave the assembly immediately. However leader of Neutral Georgia Valeri Kvarackhelia, who has also been invited by Ebralidze, says that political issues will be discussed. "I plan to talk about the problems we have had since Saakashvili came to power. I will talk about this with my compatriots residing in different countries and with Aleksandre Ebralidze, who is a real patriot, Kvarackhelia said.
Some Alliance for Georgia representatives have refused to comment on this issue, but Manana Nachkebia has told The Messenger that she has nothing against this meeting if it is part of public diplomacy. "We have always said that the restoration of relations is needed, and if this meeting is part of public diplomacy, and significant issues will be discussed, I can see nothing negative in participating in it. However the restoration of relations depends more on the authorities of the two countries rather than the opposition or Diaspora. If some anti-Georgian issues, like revolution and so on, are discussed this will be unacceptable of course, Nachkebia said.
The Parliamentary opposition Christian Democrats will not attend the meeting. "We have nothing against such meetings as such but the problem with this one is the people organising it, Ebralidze and the others, who have frequently mentioned that they want to change the present Georgian Government and replace it with a pro-Russian force, which is absolutely unacceptable for us, Levan Vephkhvadze stated.
For the Government taking part in the meeting is categorically unacceptable and anti-Georgian. "It is very possible that a plan of how to remove the present Georgian Government will be adopted at the assembly, therefore participation in it is against Georgian interests. However, those planning to take part in it have no serious political influence, so the outcome of the meeting will not significantly affect Georgia, Davit Darchiashvili said.