Salome Zurabishvili, whose presidential candidacy has been endorsed by the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia, clarified her controversial Russo-Georgian war-related remarks, in which she accused ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili of starting “the  part of the war.”
Speaking at her campaign headquarters in Tbilisi on September 17, the presidential-hopeful said she wanted to “put an end to speculations,” referring to the criticism of the opposition parties and civic activists that her statements were compromising Georgia’s interests.
“My position concerning Russia has been unchanged for more than sixty years; liberating Georgia [from Russia] has been, is and will be the major cause, goal and dream of mine and of my family,” Salome Zurabishvili noted in her remarks.
- Candidate Zurabishvili made 2008 war a central element of her campaign from the first day. See how her statements were changing on our Timeline.
“Russia is an aggressor and an occupant, which I can endlessly repeat … Russia was the occupant in 1801, when it violated the treaty signed by king Erekle II, and in 1921 when it violated the agreement signed a year earlier recognizing Georgia’s sovereignty,” she said.
“[Russia] was the aggressor and the occupant in 2008, when Russia again breached all international documents and agreements, where it had recognized Georgia’s sovereignty and independence,” candidate Zurabishvili added.
Zurabishvili then stressed the 2008 war was “of course, launched by Russia.” “Russia invaded with tanks and warplanes in the territory that it recognized to belong to Georgia, and not the other way around … Neither I nor any other Georgian will allow ourselves to say that the Russo-Georgian war was launched by Georgia.”
“When I say the government yielded to Russia’s provocation, I do not mean that Georgia is the perpetrator or that it launched the war … my point is that the then President and authorities committed either a big mistake or a big crime, the results of which we live in today, together with the displaced persons and those living in the occupied territories,” she noted.
Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze commented on the matter as well, saying Zurabishvili’s initial statements “left room for interpretation,” but the ruling party had consultations with the presidential candidate and her clarifications today reflected their joint position.
“Once again, the aggressor in 2008, the one who launched the hostilities was the Russian Federation, but Moscow would be unable to implement its scenario, if not for [President] Mikheil Saakashvili’s criminal, treacherous actions,” Irakli Kobakhidze added.
- Salome Zurabishvili, Georgia’s Foreign Minister in 2004-2005, joined the presidential race on August 6. The ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia announced that it would endorse her candidacy on September 9.
- On October 28, Georgian citizens will elect their fifth president for a six-year term. This will be the last time that the head of state will be elected through direct ballot. According to the new constitution, which will enter into force following the presidential elections, the new President will be elected by the 300-member Electoral College for a term of five years.