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Will the European Union reconcile Saakashvili and the opposition?2009-04-17 16:43
On 16th April, the European Union's Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, met figures from the Georgian opposition: the leader of the Alliance for Georgia Irakli Alasania, head of the "Georgia's Way" party Salome Zurabishvili and leader of the Republican party David Usupashvili. At the meetings, they discussed preparations for a dialogue with the authorities, including with President Mikheil Saakashvili. Will the EU manage to soothe these inflamed passions in Georgia?
There has practically been no direct contact between the authorities and the non-parliamentary opposition, which is demanding the immediate resignation of President Saakashvili, since the start of the year. Calls for dialogue have only been made by the leaders of the pro-presidential National Movement in television broadcasts. They are drowning in a sea of mutual grievances, which inflames the situation yet further. Leading political analysts, who have come together to form the Club of Independent Experts, are trying to take on the role of mediators. A few days ago they met the parliamentary speaker David Bakradze, and are planning talks with the opposition.
And now Peter Semneby, the European Union's Special Representative for the South Caucasus, has undertaken the same task. As the Georgian media report, the leaders of the opposition have still not agreed on a joint opinion regarding the holding of talks with the authorities. After the meeting with Semneby, the leader of the Alliance for Georgia, Irakli Alasania, declared that he was prepared to meet with Saakashvili. According to him, the opposition will hold a dialogue with the government on just one issue - the calling of an early presidential election. At the same time, he noted that he was also prepared to listen to the authorities' suggestions in this regard.
At these separate meetings between the opposition leaders and Semneby, the Alliance for Georgia was also represented by the leader of the Republican party, David Usupashvili, who said that any talks with the authorities will have to deal with Saakashvili's dismissal. Usupashvili remarked that those opposition forces that do not want to meet with the president would not oppose other opposition members taking part in such a meeting.
This is the case with Salome Zurabishvili, who says that she sees no need for talks with Mikheil Saakashvili. "I want to ask you this: if the government thinks that we are Russian agents, then what kind of dialogue does it intend to hold with agents?" Salome Zurabishvili addressed journalists. She has her own condition for holding talks: "We can talk to and are prepared to meet with Saakashvili only if the meeting is a public one and is devoted to one demand - his resignation." The Conservatives share the same position. "We will take part in an open meeting that raises the question of Saakashvili's dismissal," said their leader Zviada Dzidziguri.
Another Conservative Kakha Kukava says: "We have information which suggests that a dispute is going on within the authorities over this - certain figures support Saakashvili's dismissal, whilst others are against it." But then again, Mikheil Saakashvili has not yet agreed to meet his opponents in person. All that is being offered is to hold consultations with leaders of the ruling party, who are prepared to discuss any issues with the opposition, apart from the president's resignation. Deputy Prime Minister Georgi Baramidze said a few days ago that he was prepared to discuss any matters with the opposition, with the exception of the president's resignation, who after all is still the commander-in-chief: "This would be wrong and frivolous, because we are effectively in a state of war with Russia".