PM Bidzina Ivanishvili released on March 4 a statement apologizing for “irresponsible” actions and remarks by President Saakashvili, which, as PM said, put governments of “our allies” in “an awkward situation.”
The written statement, released in Georgian and English languages, the PM said that President Saakashvili’s foreign trips were not coordinated with the Foreign Ministry and his remarks did not represent position of the government unless confirmed otherwise by the new authorities.
“The Government of Georgia intensifies its efforts to foster the country’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration, to restore the country’s integrity and ensure peace in the region. To this end, our task is to fulfill the assumed responsibilities to the European Union and NATO in full, strengthen our relations with neighboring Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, and Ukraine even further, and take steps toward normalization of relations with Russia,” PM’s statement reads.
“At the same time, the recent irresponsible statements and actions by the President of Georgia contradict the policy of the Government of Georgia in this direction, tarnish the country’s international reputation, and create additional domestic and foreign problems for the new government. I am truly sorry that all this has put the governments of our allies and representatives of international organizations in an awkward situation, for which I extend apologies to them on behalf of the Government of Georgia,” the statement reads.
“Since we are not protected from similar incidents in the future either, I would like to state that the President of Georgia assumes full personal responsibility for his actions until the completion of his presidential term in October 2013; his visits will not be coordinated [the Georgian version of the statement reads "his visits are not coordinated"] with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia; and his statements will not represent the position of the Government of Georgia, unless confirmed otherwise by representatives of the country’s new government,” PM says in the statement.
The written statement does not mention specifically which remarks and actions of the President the PM was apologizing for, but Ivanishvili spoke about the issue during his media availability after meeting President Saakashvili on March 4.
Ivanishvili said that during the meeting he called on the President to stop making statements and decisions that “harm our foreign policy” and “our relations with neighbors”.
Ivanishvili said that Saakashvili’s decision to grant Georgian citizenship to a person wanted in Ukraine, as well as his remarks on alleged Russian threat facing to Azerbaijan and statement “insulting” delegation of Russia’s consumer safety watchdog agency, which was visiting Georgia last week, were “reckless” and “incomprehensible”. Ivanishvili said with these remarks and actions the President “did disservice to his own homeland” and offered him to “apologize before these countries”. “If he does not, I am going to do that,” Ivanishvili said.
After visiting Baku, President Saakashvili said on February 28 that Russia was preparing the same "scenario" for Azerbaijan, which was applied against Georgia in last year’s parliamentary elections when, as he put it, "oligarchs, Russian funds, blackmailing and provocations" were used. He also said Russia wanted to use some Russian-based wealthy ethnic Azerbaijanis for this purpose.
Head of the foreign relations department at the Azerbaijani President’s administration, Navruz Mamedov, said that President Saakashvili’s remarks were “surprising”; he said that while some parallels could be found between developments taking place in Georgia and Azerbaijan, there were multiple differences as well. Mamedov stressed that views expressed by Saakashvili about some representative of the Azerbaijani diaspora in Russia were of his own and no such issues were discuss and there was no need for such discussions at all during the Georgian President’s visit to Azerbaijan. Mamedov also said it was regrettable that President Saakashvili mentioned Azerbaijan while expressing his personal views about Russia.
Asked about “controversy” following his visit to Azerbaijani, Saakashvili responded after meeting Ivanishvili on March 4 that everyone, who was not engaged in “intrigues” and “creating various interpretations”, was possible to see what a great reception he received from the Azerbaijani authorities in Baku, as well as positive feedback to his visit from the Azerbaijani authorities.
“What else can we do? We are acting in line with Georgia’s interests; will stirring various rumors about each other do any service for us? Of course not, but it will make happy the occupying force of our country; I am not playing these games,” Saakashvili said.
In late February President Saakashvili granted Georgian citizenship to Ukrainian citizen Sviatoslav Melay, who was facing possible extradition to Ukraine where he is wanted for fraud allegations. Secretary of National Security Council of Georgia, Giga Bokeria, said on March 1 that after studying the case it was revealed that criminal charges against Melay were result of “a personal reprisal” by “high ranking official” in Ukraine which made the President to decide in favor of granting Georgian citizenship.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s new government is seeking an extradition from Ukraine of a former employee of the Georgian Interior Ministry, Oleg Melnikov, who is wanted in Georgia for allegedly partaking in an alleged crime in which Data Akhalaia, former head of Interior Ministry’s Department for Constitutional Security (DCS) is also wanted. Georgian prosecutors also want Melnikov, who was arrested in Ukraine in December, for questioning into his alleged role in a high-profile murder case of Sandro Girgvliani, which is being re-investigated by Georgia’s new authorities.