Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s decision to appoint former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as the head of the Executive Reform Committee of Ukraine has triggered mixed reactions in Tbilisi.
Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani stated that the Georgian Government decided to recall Georgian Ambassador to Ukraine Teimuraz Sharashenidze for “consultations.”
“It is an acceptable move in diplomatic practice [to recall an Ambassador], which indicates that there are relations are strained and consultations with the ambassador is necessary to take further steps,” Zalkaliani clarified.
Georgia’s chief diplomat stressed that despite the “regrettable” decision by Zelenskyy, “Georgia does not plan to cut diplomatic ties with Ukraine or question strategic partnership” between two countries.
“Appointment of a person convicted by Georgian courts and prosecuted for corruption offenses on this position raises some questions,” FM Zalkaliani stated.
Davit Zalkaliani noted that offering Saakashvili a less important job, than initially planned position of Vice Premier, reflected “a skeptical attitude” of Ukraine’s political spectrum to Saakashvili.
“In the meantime, to my mind, [they] took into account Georgia’s [significance] as Ukraine’s strategic partner,” Zalkaliani said.
Ruling Georgian Dream party lawmaker, Vice Speaker Kakha Kuchava commended Ukraine for its move not to appoint Saakashvili on “a high-ranking political position” of Deputy Premier, but stressed nonetheless that appointing a person “wanted” in Georgia even to “a low level position” requires “additional consultations.”
“Therefore, our ambassador has been recalled for additional consultations and only afterwards we will spell out our position,” he added.
In response to the Georgian leaders’ criticism, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Georgia “wrongly” reacted to the issue.
“I can assure you that we have perfect relations with Georgia and Georgian people. No matter what, we will not recall our ambassador [from Tbilisi] to Ukraine for consultations, because relations between our countries will outlive any given [government] of either country. I believe that Georgia[n government] is making a mistake,” President Zelenskyy stated.
“I also think that each party will realize after consultations that the staff policy of every country is a domestic issue,” highlighted Zelenskyy.
Georgian opposition politicians have called on the government not to interfere in the decisions of a strategic partner country.
Speaking at a news briefing on May 8, Nika Melia of the United National Movement, whose party had been chaired by Saakashvili until 2019, hailed former Georgian President’s appointment in Ukraine as “a success of the country.”
“This [personal] success of Saakashvili will pave the way for the success and victory of Georgia,” Melia stated.
“I think that we should congratulate each other on this day, regardless of our political affiliations,” he added.
MP Otar Kakhidze of European Georgia slammed Georgian Dream’s “hysteria” caused by the Ukrainian President’s decision as “absurd and shameful,” calling on the ruling party not to put “their anger to political opponents” above the national interests.
Earlier on April 22, Saakashvili announced that President Zelenskyy offered him to serve as the Vice PM of Ukraine. However, according to Ukrainian media, Verkhovna Rada failed to mobilize enough votes for Saakashvili’s appointment and did not consider the issue at its meetings on April 24 and April 30.
Prospects of Saakashvili’s political comeback as the Vice Premier in another state have unsettled Georgian leaders.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili stated on April 28 that appointment of a person – convicted by Georgian courts and prosecuted for corruption offenses – on a high-level position was “both incomprehensible and unacceptable.”
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia then warned of possibility to recall Georgian Ambassador from Kyiv – “at least for consultations” – in case of Saakashvili’s confirmation as the Deputy Prime Minister.