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International community reacts to the recent developments in Georgia

By Khatia Bzhalava
Thursday, February 25
The recent arrest of the head of the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party Nika Melia has been followed by a series of statements made by international partners, urging parties to continue negotiations. The UNM Chairman was arrested at the party headquarter on Tuesday morning.

British Ambassador to Georgia Mark Clayton tweeted that he is “shocked by the scenes at UNM headquarters.” The Ambassador stressed that Violence and Chaos are the last two things Georgia needs right now. “I urge all sides to act with restraint, now and in the coming days,” he said.

Member of the European Parliament Anna Fotyga referred to the decision of detaining Melia by storming the UNM headquarter as ‘unacceptable’. She believes that the political crisis in Georgia cannot be resolved by force, aggression, and humiliating statements.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has expressed concern over Melia’s arrest and called on all sides to avoid escalation of the process and return to negotiations in support of Georgian democracy.

Helsinki Commission leaders, Rep. Alcee Hastings, Rep. Joe Wilson, Senator Roger Wicker, and Senator Ben Cardin echoed the recent developments by saying that “storming the headquarters of an opposing political party and arbitrarily detaining its leader is not in keeping with democratic progress.” They call on the government of Georgia to release Melia, deescalate the crisis, and “recommit to dialogue rather than aggression.”

The PACE monitoring co-rapporteurs for Georgia, Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE) believe that the police raid on the UNM Headquarters and the arrest of opposition leader Melia ‘unnecessarily’ escalated tension between the opposition and the ruling GD party and further deepened the existing crisis. “Georgia’s democratic development needs restraint, dialogue, and compromise, not escalation and confrontation,” said the two co-rapporteurs. They urged all political forces to refrain from any kind of action that could contribute to further escalating of the tension.

The US Department of State stated that Polarizing rhetoric, force, and aggression are not the solution to Georgia’s political tension, and called on all sides to engage in negotiation. The United States affirms its readiness to support a democratic, secure, and prosperous Georgia.

Marina Kaljurand, Chair of the EU-Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee, and Sven Mikser, the European Parliament Rapporteur on Georgia, released a joint statement concerning the developments in Georgia. As stated by MEPs, even though they disapprove ‘the non-constructive and provocative tactics’ pursued by parts of the opposition, responding to provocations by invading the headquarters of the largest opposition party and arresting their leader “is in no way helpful, nor does it provide a way out of the crisis.” MEPs believe that the only way Georgia can resolve this political crisis without putting the country’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations under threat is for all the parties to take a step back, refrain from further polarizing rhetoric and action, and re-engage in dialogue. “It is imperative that all those trusted with power put the legitimate aspirations of the Georgian people before any party political considerations,” reads the joint statement.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee and Georgia Caucus issued a statement assessing the events of Tuesday morning as ‘disheartening to witness’. Representatives Gregory W. Meeks, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Michael McCaul, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Gerry Connolly and Adam Kinzinger, Co-Chairmen of the House of Representatives Georgia Caucus stated in their joint statement that “years of hard work by the Georgian people to build a stronger and more prosperous democracy are being gravely threatened by excessive force and undemocratic actions.”

US Senators Jim Risch and Jeanne Shaheen and Congressmen Kinzinger and Connolly released a joint statement calling on the government on the immediate release of all political prisoners including Nika Melia, as well as Giorgi Rurua, and urged all political parties to stop provocations and negotiate for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

The chairman of the UNM was transferred to Rustavi penitentiary establishment #12 on Tuesday. Yesterday, the opposition members and the supporters of Nika Melia drove from Tbilisi to Rustavi by cars and performed the Georgian national anthem in his support. Protestors, who urge the UNM chair’s release, say rallies will proceed until their demand is met. UNM agrees to resume talks with the ruling party only if Nika Melia will be sitting at the dialogue table.