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Archive for Georgia

Newsline: Georgia summons Belarus ambassador

The Georgian Foreign Ministry has summoned the Ambassador of Belarus to Georgia following the visit of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to the Abkhazia region. (https://georgiatoday.ge/georgian-mfa-summons-belarus-ambassador-following-lukashenkos-visit-to-abkhazia/) As previously reported, Alexander Lukashenko arrived in Abkhazia on Wednesday and met with its de-facto leader Aslan Bzhania in Bichvinta. While in office, it was the first time for Alexander Lukashenko to enter Abkhazia. It is noteworthy that Belarus does not recognize the independence of Abkhazia or Tskhinvali region.

Newsline: Georgia recalls Ukraine ambassador

Georgia has recalled its ambassador to Ukraine for consultations after Georgia’s former President Mikheil Saakashvili was appointed as a chairman of the Ukrainian Executive Reform Committee, the foreign minister said. “Georgia’s strategic partner’s decision to appoint a person, who is convicted by Georgian courts and prosecuted, raises questions,” David Zalkaliani told reporters on Friday. He said the decision did not mean breaking diplomatic relations between the two countries. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/05/georgia-recalls-ukraine-ambassador-saakashvili-appointment-200508083518834.html) In 2018, Georgia convicted Saakashvili of abuse of power and seeking to cover up evidence about the 2005 beating of an opposition member of parliament when he was president – charges the former leader dismissed as politically motivated.

Newsline: Israel pushes for Georgia to move embassy to Jerusalem

Israel and Georgia will begin discussing a possible move of Georgia’s embassy to Jerusalem, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely wrote on her Twitter early Monday morning. Hotovely, upon returning from Georgia where she was a guest of honor at the swearing-in ceremony of Georgia’s new and first female President Salome Zurabishvili, said that “in light of the deep and long-standing friendship, we would like to see Georgia move its embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.” Hotovely met with the new Georgian president, as well as the new Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, who began his tenure six months ago, and the foreign minister. The deputy foreign minister said she concluded with the new Georgian government that the countries would open dialogue regarding the move.


Newsline: Former French ambassador elected as president of Georgia

Salome Zurabishvili, a former French diplomat born to Georgian immigrants in Paris, won with the backing of Georgia’s ruling party in a second-round presidential vote on Wednesday. Zurabishvili, 66, was running as an independent candidate for the largely ceremonial position, but has the backing of the ruling Georgian Dream party. The election is seen as a test for the increasingly unpopular party, which is run by billionaire oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili. Zurabishvili was born in Paris to a family that fled Georgia for political reasons in 1921. She studied at the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Studies and at Columbia University in New York before leading a successful career at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which culminated in an appointment as ambassador to Georgia in 2003. In 2004, then-president Saakashvili granted her Georgian citizenship with the endorsement of French President Jacques Chirac, and she became Georgia’s foreign minister. A previous bid to seek the presidency in 2013 was disqualified, due to her holding dual French and Georgian citizenship. She announced in August that France had terminated her French citizenship at her request, so she could submit her candidacy for the 2018 poll. “The decision was not simple, but it was necessary,” Zurabishvili said at that time. “The President of Georgia cannot simultaneously be a citizen of another country.”


Newsline: Norway to close embassy in Azerbaijan, open in Georgia

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway Ine Eriksen Søreide said Oslo plans to open its Embassy in Tbilisi in the course of 2019, Civil.ge reports. Simultaneously, the Norwegian Embassy in Baku will be closed, with Azerbaijan being covered from Norway’s representation in Ankara, Turkey. The Royal Norwegian Embassy has been operating in Baku since 1998, and was also accredited to Georgia. Announcing the move, the Norwegian Foreign Minister said the decision was taken “on the basis of an overall assessment of Norwegian interests and our ties with the countries in the Southern Caucasus.” “Georgia is one of our priority partner countries in the Eurasia region. For many years, it has been following a course of reform, which has brought it closer to European and Euro-Atlantic cooperation structures,” Ine Eriksen Søreide stated.


Newsline: Ex-French diplomat unlikely favourite for Georgian president

When Salome Zurabishvili arrived in Georgia in 2004 as French ambassador, few could have predicted that 15 years later she would be favourite to be elected president of the ex-Soviet nation. The Caucasus country votes Sunday in a hotly contested race that has pitted Zurabishvili, supported by the ruling Georgian Dream party, against opposition-backed Grigol Vashadze. The position of president will be largely ceremonial following a change to the constitution but the polls are seen as a test for the increasingly unpopular Georgian Dream. Zurabishvili’s unorthodox path to the candidacy has also generated interest. The stylish 66-year-old, currently an independent MP, is the daughter of refugees who fled Georgia in 1921 for Paris after the country’s annexation by the Red Army. Her career in France’s foreign ministry culminated in her posting to Tbilisi. From that position former president Mikheil Saakashvili appointed her foreign minister — after approving the move with then French leader Jacques Chirac. But Zurabishvili quickly made enemies in the ranks of the parliamentary majority, with MPs and a number of senior diplomats publicly accusing her of arrogance and impulsivity. She was sacked after a year on the job, though thousands took to the streets of the capital to protest her dismissal. She then joined the opposition and became one of Saakashvili’s fiercest critics. She speaks Georgian with a strong French accent and frequent grammatical mistakes. Opinion polls put opposition candidate Vashadze almost even with Zurabishvili, who renounced her French citizenship to be able to stand. Vashadze is a respected career diplomat who served in the Soviet foreign ministry where he helped craft the Soviet-US treaty on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms. The 60-year-old was Saakashvili’s foreign minister from 2008-2012. Both candidates have campaigned on similar promises to bring Georgia closer to full membership of the European Union and NATO. The vote is Georgia’s last direct leadership poll as the Black Sea nation transitions to a parliamentary form of governance following a controversial constitutional reform. Georgia’s next president will be elected in 2024 by a 300-member electoral college. Over 3.5 million people are eligible to vote in the election which will be monitored by international observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.


Newsline: Tbilisi thief stole $160k from US embassy and got away with it

U.S. officials uncovered a fraud scheme that resulted in almost $160,000 being stolen from an embassy in eastern Europe over a five-year period, according to a new State Department report. The fraud was little more complicated than stealing from a cash register, but poor security controls at the U.S. Embassy in Georgia allowed it to continue from 2010 to 2014. In total, $159,700 was lost, “likely due to the misappropriation of cash” from the retail store safe by a former employee, according to an audit. The loss of funds was hidden for years because the thief deleted receipts from the accounting records in order to cover up the shortages. “The deleted transactions were cash sales, and the deletions often occurred many weeks or months after the dates of sale,” the State Department’s Office of Inspector General explained. The identity of the thief was obscured by the number of people who had access to the accounting software. The inspector general noted that the commissary employees, as well as the government employees who comprise a board that oversees the embassy employee association, all used the same administrator account to access the accounting software. The scam started small, with $8,700 stolen in 2010. That figure rose to $46,100 by 2012. Investigators “could not determine” who carried out the fraud, so the inspector general was confined to outlining proposals for preventing it from happening in the future, such as limiting the cash on hand at the commissary.


Newsline: Georgia decries Russian Foreign Minister’s visit to Abkhazia to open embassy

Georgian Prime Minister’s special envoy for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze has described the forthcoming visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Abkhazia to open embassy as an “encroachment on Georgia’s sovereignty.” Deputy Foreign Minister David Jalaganiya told reporters on his part Lavrov’s trip meant disregard for international principles and law. In August 2008, Russia recognized independence of Abkhazia and Sourth Ossetia, formerly two regions of Georgia that had been seeking independence for themselves since the early 1990’s.


Newsline: ‘Secret recording’ in Georgia enrages US ambassador

Even skilled diplomats sometimes stumble, especially when they think the microphones are off. U.S. Ambassador Richard Norland in the former Soviet republic of Georgia found himself sputtering in outrage over comments he made earlier this month to students at Tbilisi State University in the capital of the Black Sea nation. “This was a discussion with students. Actually it was off the record, and it was [a] secret recording,” he said in remarks posted on the U.S. Embassy website. Mr. Norland suggested the quotes that appeared in the Georgian media were taken out of content, but the damage was done. In his Nov. 15 address at the university, he complained about how the Georgian government treated residents of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have been restive since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Responding to a student’s question about his opinion of the cauldron of tension in the region, Mr. Norland said: “If you ask me about my opinion, I can tell you that when I was in Georgia 20 years ago, I saw that Georgians were treating Abkhazians and Ossetians the same way as Russians were treating Georgians, and Georgia will have to apologize for mistakes of the past.” His remarks sparked protests from opposition politicians, while the government tried to play down the ambassador’s gaffe.


Newsline: Georgian Embassy in Washington offered for sale

New York-based DelShah Capital LLC is seeking buyers for the Embassy of Georgia building at 2209 Massachusetts Ave. NW as it plans its exit from D.C.’s commercial real estate market. DelShah has retained Greysteel LLC to market the historic 9,000-square-foot building by R and 22nd streets NW as an investment property. The Georgian Embassy is locked into a lease through January 2016, and the building is generating net operating income of about $288,900, according to Greysteel marketing data. Greysteel is marketing 2209 Mass to groups including other embassies. Built in 1911, the building was previously home to the United Arab Emirates and the Ukraine.