Georgian FM Talks Ukraine, Russia, Opposition

In an extended interview with Palitra TV on January 27, Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani addressed among others accusations that the Georgian Dream Government is keeping a low profile amid military escalation around Ukraine, and Western partners’ stance on Moscow’s demands for NATO’s non-enlargement.

Government’s Stance on Ukraine

FM Zalkaliani denied accusations that the GD government is not vocal about Russian military build-up in and around Ukraine, arguing the opposition wants to create perceptions that the authorities are appeasing Moscow.

He maintained that the Georgian Government has been vocal in supporting Ukraine during visits to Kyiv as well as to Brussels. As an example, he named the Georgian Prime Minister’s participation in Ukraine’s Crimean Platform.

“A lot of states did not participate, but a certain number of countries and Georgia were there,” the top diplomat stressed adding: “was this not a vocal statement?”

He also argued that Georgian authorities made their support to Ukraine clear during the Associated Trio visit to Brussels as well as the Eastern Partnership Summit in December.

The top diplomat said that besides his recent phone conversation with Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, he has informal conversations with his colleague every day.

None of Georgia’s partners believe that Georgia is not vocal over its support to Ukraine, the Foreign Minister argued. “Have you seen even one critical [statement] from our international partners?!”

Also, the diplomat said to show support to Ukraine, Tbilisi will not be evacuating its Embassy from Kyiv. “They are in continuous communication with our Ukrainian brothers, Ukrainian colleagues in the Foreign Ministry as well as every other [state] body because in this situation it is important for the Embassy to function smoothly and be represented in full capacity,” FM Zalkaliani highlighted.

Continuing on the opposition’s criticism toward the GD over the party’s tabled Ukraine support resolution falling short of mentioning “Russian military aggression,” the top diplomat reiterated that opponents are trying to portray the government as being loyal to Russia.

“Were they not in power when they allowed Russian aggresion and occupation? Who were in power? Exactly the people who now criticize us,” he claimed, adding “this is unacceptable, a double standard and immoral.”

FM Zalkaliani said he would have liked to see the resolution adopted with multipartisan support, had the clause on Russia not become subject to “political manipulations.”

The GD party’s draft addresses Georgia’s stance that the situation should not escalate further and that steps should be taken to prevent an invasion of a sovereign country, the top diplomat maintained.

He also named a recent statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry warning Georgia to “draw lessons from the past and pursue a more balanced policy towards Russia,” as an example that the GD Government does not have a “loyal attitude” toward the Kremlin.

The diplomat stressed that it is Moscow that needs to learn from the past, as “international principles and international security are upside down because in 2008 Georgia was occupied and fundamental principles with regard to sovereignty and territorial integrity were disregarded.”

Moscow’s Demands on “Security Guarantees”

The senior Georgian diplomat asserted that Georgia’s NATO allies have been united in their stance that the Alliance’s Open Door Policy will not be revised as per Moscow’s demands to rescind the Bucharest Summit decision that Georgia and Ukraine will eventually become members.

He ruled out any possibilities of the Western partners turning their back on the commitment for “bargaining leverage” to prevent a possible Russian invasion in Ukraine.

According to FM Zalkaliani, this was demonstrated by Washington’s January 26 written response to Moscow. He pointed out that although State Secretary Antony Blinken did not reveal the specific contents of the response, he declared that the U.S. remained committed to the open door policy.

The top diplomat said that Georgia’s partners are ready to raise with Moscow the issues of disarmament and fulfilling its international commitments and obligations.

“We will see in the coming days If there will be political will on part of Russia to participate in this process,” he noted, adding Moscow’s reaction to the counterproposals will make it apparent whether the Kremlin “is sincere in saying it does not want war and does not aim to invade Ukraine.”

FM Zalkaliani highlighted that Georgia has experienced first-hand “the aggression followed by occupation, and this process, unfortunately, continues to this day.”

“The fact that from several dozen kilometers from Tbilisi there are Russian military bases is a clear example for us and the international community of what can follow invasion and occupation of another country,” he added.

According to the top diplomat, Georgia is coordinating its steps with its Western Allies to “not to make the country face the threat of the catastrophe which could follow another confrontation.”

He said that the GD authorities “as a responsible Government” are doing everything that the events of 2008 do not “happen again.”

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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