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The Georgian opposition is shifting its gaze towards its northern neighbour11.03.2009 | 10:35
Demands for the president to resign are being made increasingly insistently in Tbilisi. The day before the first ultimatum ran out on holding a referendum on an early presidential election, as the "Alliance for Georgia" presented to Saakashvili, people started talking here again about their northern neighbour. And in a tone which is unusual for recent years.
The opposition has again mentioned an initiative to instigate a thaw between Georgia and Russia. Since the August events, only the idle have failed to talk about the need to normalize relations with Moscow and to establish if not friendly, then at least rational relations based on a degree of partnership.
Admittedly, Mikheil Nikolaevich and his team have not shown any great consistency on this issue. A week ago, at a ceremony on the anniversary of the country's "Sovietization", the president suggested to his Russian colleague that any "personal difficulties" should be overcome, and that they should initiate a dialogue. Practically every media outlet quoted Saaakshvili at the time. However, a few days later, Georgia's Foreign Minister said that Tbilisi was not offering to resume relations with Moscow. "Tbilisi will only start to think about resuming relations with Moscow once Russia fulfils three main conditions. These are the recognition by the Russian Federation of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia," the GHN news agency quoted Vashadze as saying.
Meanwhile, the opposition ranks are already thinking about the "era after Saakashvili" and are giving serious consideration to normalizing relations with Russia. Of course, nobody there agrees with recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, several are expressing their willingness to look for points on which they can agree, and a way to overcome the confrontation. The leader of the "Alliance for Georgia", Irakli Alasania, has mentioned this several times.
His rivals, the leaders of the other opposition parties, have also presented their vision for normalizing relations with Moscow. During her speech at a regional party conference in Telavi, the leader of the "Democratic Movement - United Georgia" party, Nino Burjanadze, devoted special attention to Russian-Georgian relations. According to her, Russia is a country that all major powers need to consider, and taking into account today's situation, Georgia needs to consider her twice as much. "Our foreign minister said in an interview that we can just forget about Russia and put relations with them down onto the 18th rung. I think that statements such as these are irresponsible. The USA, Europe and China don't allow themselves to forget about Russia, so how can we intend to do this? By moving to a different planet? If we forget about the territories we have lost, then we can forget about Russia and put this issue not just on the 18th, but on the 38th rung," Noviy Region quotes Nino Burjanadze.
Georgia's former ambassador to the Russian Federation, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, who is famous for his scandalous accusations against Saakashvili, has suggested establishing a special Council for normalizing Georgian-Russian relations. At the same time, as ITAR-TASS reports, the former ambassador stressed that, "nobody is intending to come to a separate agreement with Russian representatives on cooperation, or to look for separate contacts." "I think that we need to start a discussion about where we go from here, especially on the back of the expected progress between Russia and the USA," he argued. In his opinion, experienced politicians could head up this Council - former foreign ministers like Irakli Menagarishvili and Tedo Dzhaparidze, or Georgia's former ambassador to the UN Revaz Adamiya.
It is symbolic that at the same time, the presentation of a Russian-Georgian newspaper "Irakli's Way" took place in Tbilisi. As the "Novosti-Gruziya" news agency reports, the publication was established at the initiative of the "Irakli II Society". "All of us need to do everything we can to restore healthy relations with Russia," the chairman of the society, Archil Chkoidze, declared at the presentation. The organization itself - the "Irakli II Society" - was established on 30th January to help to restore good-neighbourly relations with Russia.
But then again, people in Georgia have always held positive feelings towards their northern neighbour, in spite of the anti-Russian hysteria of recent times. And this is in spite of every effort taken by the authorities to ensure a catastrophic reduction in the Russian-speaking population. However, Russian can still be heard in kindergartens, schools, and in university faculties. And "New Georgians" prefer to hire Russian-speaking nannies or private tutors for their children. Did centuries-old traditions need to be broken, contrary to the wishes and expectations of the Georgian people?