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PM: We don’t Want the U.S. Reputation to be Damaged

On May 14, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze held a press conference in which he addressed, among other things, developments regarding the Foreign Agents Law, the visit of Assistant Secretary of State Jim O’Brien, and the possibility of U.S. sanctions against GD Honorary Chairman Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Irakli Kobakhidze started the press conference by praising the Foreign Agents’ Law as usual and said that “nobody can be against transparency”, which he said was “a core value of the EU”. He then thanked the MPs who voted for the bill, as well as the Interior Ministry’s law-enforcement officials, who he said were handling the violence at the rallies “according to EU standards.” He then called on rally participants to refrain from violence.

Prime Minister Kobakhidze said Georgia was “a free, sovereign and dignified state” and warned: “We will continue to act in the interests of our country,” adding that EU membership is valuable only together with “sovereignty” and “dignity”. He thanked the Georgian people, saying that “the people’s support has allowed us to maintain peace and not allow revolutions”. He claimed that the law on Foreign Agents is supported by the Georgian people and concluded by promising that “by 2030, Georgia will definitely become a member of the EU”.

Q&A with Journalists:

Asked by the pro-government Imedi TV to give more details about the meeting with Assistant Secretary Jim O’Brien, Kobakhidze said the meeting lasted 1.5 hours and that the sides talked “very sincerely” about bilateral relations. He said he “explained everything to Mr. O’Brien,” including the processes over the past three years, and that as a result of the meeting “many things became clear to our partners.” The Prime Minister said: “We reaffirmed our commitment to deepen relations, but this also requires a fair approach from the U.S. side,” he said, adding that “in this case we will be successful in our bilateral relations.”

He also said he explained all the details related to the bill, saying: “If there are any comments, we are ready for discussions.”

When asked by the Georgian Public Broadcaster what is the solution to the current situation, as the protests and international criticism related to the Agents’ Law continue, Irakli Kobakhidze said that since there is a political opposition in Georgia, their protest is “part of the democratic process”. He said: “They have supporters who are a minority, it’s normal that they protest, but of course the political minority cannot force the political majority not to pass a law that serves the purpose of strengthening our interests.”

He claimed that 60% of the people support the law and since the Parliament is elected by the people, the MPs have the responsibility to act according to the will of the majority.

When asked by pro-opposition Mtavari TV about the ambush and severe beating by special forces of activist David Katsarava at May 14 protest rally [who had several facial bones broken as a result of the beating and had to undergo surgery] and whether it was a direct Russian order, since “Russians are irritated by him” because of his work, the Prime Minister said he doesn’t think that “Russians are particularly irritated by David Katsarava.” He blamed Katsrava, the leader of the anti-occupation movement Power is in Unity, who regularly patrols the occupation line and reports on the situation there, for “provocations” along the occupation line. He then accused Katsarava of insulting the policeman, although he noted that “this is no excuse” for the beating. An exchange followed in which the journalist replied that there had been no insult, but the Prime Minister insisted that there had been.

Asked by RFL whether the Assistant Secretary had mentioned the sanctions during the meeting, Kobakhidze said that he had spoken to Jim O’Brien about the “de facto” sanctions against Ivanishvili: “I told him more details” about a certain meeting, about demands during that meeting, many details. Asked to comment on the details of the meeting, he said: “I don’t want to damage the reputation of our partners and I won’t go into details.” He then added that the “robbing of Ivanishvili’s accounts” began in 2008, after Ivanishvili “cut all his communication with Saakashvili,” especially after the events of November 2007. His accounts “were frozen”, he said. So, he said Bidzina Ivanishvili has full right to have this impression of de facto sanctions imposed on him, noting that happened because Ivanishvili he did not do certain things that would be harmful for the state.

As for possible future sanctions, according to the Prime Minister: “We have not discussed this with O’Brien, despite our long dialogue.”

Commenting further on the issue of sanctions with another journalist, the Prime Minister also said: “In general, when we talk about improving bilateral relations, such issues are only counterproductive.

He also said: “It will be harmful to impose sanctions for the one who imposes them.” He said that the U.S. sanctioning of the judges “without any evidence” “only damaged the U.S. reputation. “We don’t want the U.S. reputation to be damaged,” he said adding: “and our call to our partners is to think about partnership rather than counterproductive steps.” He said that sanctions “won’t hurt our team,” which “will only get stronger support.”

When asked to comment on the Chairs of parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committees of several European countries who addressed the protest rally on the evening of May 14 from the stage on Rustaveli Avenue, Kobakhidze said that this issue will be addressed by the law on foreign agents, adding that it’s “absolutely unacceptable when politicians from abroad try to interfere in our affairs” and calling this a “lustration.”

To the question what could be changed in the Foreign Agents Law, the Prime Minister replied: “As far as the law is concerned, we can use the veto procedure, the most important thing is to get legal opinions, which we have not received yet.” He said that the law is very simple, “the only thing we require is to submit a declaration once a year,” adding: “That’s all, the rest is technical. This is the minimum standard for transparency, which is a very European phenomenon”. On the possibility of changes to the law, he said: “We need to receive legal comments, if they will be able to convince us, we will make certain changes.” legal norms. “We will not compromise at the expense of state interests,” he added.

When asked why the GD did not wait for the opinion of the Venice Commission on the Foreign Agents’ law, the PM said that there were two weeks before the presidential veto and that the Commission could send its comments during this period.

Asked who the “Global Party of War” is, Irakli Kobakhidze said that he “explained in detail” to the Assistant Secretary who it is, but that “this is a delicate issue” and “these are dangerous people”.

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