Fri, Nov 07, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Georgia’s foreign minister quits amid rising tensions

AP, TBILISI

Georgia’s foreign minister and three of her deputies resigned on Wednesday, alleging that the firing of the defense minister a day earlier was politically motivated and endangers the ex-Soviet nation’s aim of eventually joining NATO and the EU.

The events highlight growing tensions between the Georgian Dream Party and the Free Democrats in the country’s governing coalition over corruption and the aim to integrate with the West and fend off the influence of neighboring Russia.

The Georgian Dream party was founded by billionaire and former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia. Even though he has expressed repeated support for Georgia’s pro-West course, he has also worked to improve relations with Russia and has been labeled a “Kremlin pawn” by foes.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, a Georgian Dream member, has come under fire recently from critics who say he did not adequately react against a proposed integration agreement by Russia and the Georgian separatist region of Abkhazia, which declared independence after the nations’ brief war in 2008 and is outside of Tbilisi’s control.

Garibashvili on Tuesday fired Georgian Minister of Defense Irakli Alasania — a Free Democrats member — amid an investigation into corruption in the military. Later the same day, State Minister of Georgia on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Aleksi Petriashvili resigned in protest and on Wednesday, Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Maya Panjikidze and three of her deputies followed suit. They are all members of the Free Democrats.

US RESPONSE

US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “The United States notes with concern the Georgian Prime Minister’s dismissal of Defense Minister Alasania and his deputy ministers, and the subsequent resignations of State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Petriashvili and Foreign Minister Panjikidze and her deputy ministers.”

“We have greatly appreciated the work of these ministers in service to their country and in partnership with the United States,” Psaki said in a statement. “It is in Georgia’s interest to demonstrate stability, unity, commitment to due process and the rule of law.”

“We urge all parties to work toward these goals and to focus on securing Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future,” she added.

Panjikidze, who is Alasania’s sister-in-law, said she resigned because his dismissal was a political attack on pro-Western figures.

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili gave a similar assessment of the brewing political crisis on Tuesday, saying political opposition is “creating a threat to the Euro-Atlantic integration of the nation.”

COURSE CORRECTION?

Political analyst Gia Nodia said the political infighting “doesn’t mean that the current government is changing its foreign-policy direction, which is oriented toward the West.”

“That’s a choice made by the Georgian people and the authorities can’t go against it,” he said.

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