Secretary of State Rice and Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili at Tbilisi airport, July 9. Photo: InterPressNews
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a joint meeting with opposition leaders and some civil society representatives in Tbilisi early on July 10.
"Democracy is absolutely necessary not because human beings are perfect, but because human beings are imperfect... I do believe that there is a strong relationship between democracy at home and well-being abroad," Rice said at the meeting.
Davit Gamkrelidze of the New Rights Party and Levan Gachechiladze, both from the opposition coalition; Shalva Natelashvili, leader of the Labor Party; Giorgi Targamadze, leader of the Christian-Democratic Party; and Davit Usupashvili, the Republican Party leader, were among the opposition leaders present.
“Many important issues were raised during the meeting. I told her about mistakes that the U.S. made in respect of Georgia and in particular I noted that it was a mistake to give too much support personally to Mikheil Saakashvili,” Usupashvili told journalists after the meeting.
Natelashvili said after the meeting that he had also noted the U.S. “mistake” in backing “the Saakashvili regime.”
“I have the impression that she is very well informed about developments in Georgia. Granting Georgia NATO Membership Action Plan, MAP, was one of the major issues discussed,” Targamadze said.
The meeting was also attended NGO representatives and Nino Burjanadze, ex-parliamentary chairperson, who set up a Foundation for Democracy and Development this week. Giorgi Chkheidze, the head of Georgian Young Lawyers Association, and Eka Siradze, the head of International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, were in attendance.
“I am glad that this meeting was held; we talked about problems in the country, about the support which we need in conflict resolution and about issues pertaining to the country’s further democratic development,” Burjanadze said afterwards.
Before the meeting, Gamkrelidze said: “We will raise the situation in the conflict zones and the lack of democracy and human rights in Georgia at the meeting. This is a good chance to speak with a representative of the country, which has power to influence [the Georgian authorities].”
“Georgia’s NATO integration, conflict zones, democratic development – these are the issues that will be raised,” Usupashvili said beforehand. “We will also speak about mistakes that have been made in recent years, which led to public disappointment in Georgia and among our American partners as well.”
“Our request to her [the secretary of state] will be to take away Saakashvili, as they brought him,” Natelashvili told journalists before the meeting.
The U.S. secretary state is now meeting President Saakashvili and a joint news conference will be held afterwards. Eka Tkeshelashvili, the foreign minister, and her deputy, Giga Bokeria, as well as Temur Iakobashvili, the state minister for reintegration, Irakli Alasania, the Georgian UN ambassador, and Davit Sikharulidze, the Georgian ambassador to the United States, are also attending the meeting.