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Alasania’s UN Appointment Triggers Controversy
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 13 Jun.'06 / 13:33

Irakli Alasania, a highly-respected negotiator in both Tbilisi and Sokhumi, as well as in the international community, will have to deal with the Abkhaz conflict from New York after the Parliament approves him as Georgia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, which is expected to occur next week.

Officials say that President Saakashvili’s decision to nominate his aide for Abkhaz conflict issues as Georgia’s UN envoy is a step aimed at invigorating international efforts in respect to settlement of the Abkhaz conflict. But opponents fear that the new appointment will hinder the positive momentum recently observed during talks between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides.

This new nomination was discussed and hailed by parliamentarians from the ruling National Movement party at the hearings of the Committee for Foreign Affairs on June 12. Alasania will replace Revaz Adamia, who has served as Georgia’s UN envoy since 2002.

“We will work over the implementation of the President’s instructions. This is, first of all, the internationalization of the peacekeeping process – we are now speaking about adding a [UN] police component [to the current peacekeeping operation]. We will also invigorate activities towards human rights protection and issues related with facts of ethnic cleansing,” Irakli Alasania told reporters on June 12 after the parliamentary committee hearings.

Alasania will reportedly also retain his position as the Presidential aide for Abkhaz conflict issues.

Irakli Alasania, 32, was appointed the President’s aide for Abkhaz conflict issues in March, 2006. The decision was hailed by officials from breakaway Abkhazia, as he has managed to establish good personal relations with many representatives of the Abkhaz authorities.

“We have very positive impressions [about Alasania]… He is a person with whom it is possible to speak,” Foreign Minister of breakaway Abkhazia Sergey Shamba said after Alasania was appointed as the Georgian President’s aide.

Shortly after this appointment, Alasania managed in late March to agree with the Abkhaz side to resume the Georgian-Abkhaz Coordination Council, which is seen as a tool for direct talks between the sides.

On June 9 Alasania presented the principles of the Abkhaz peace plan – the first-ever document outlining Tbilisi’s official position and proposals over conflict resolution - to the Georgian Parliament.

Before become the President’s aide, Irakli Alasania served as Chairman of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government-in-exile. In 2002-2004 Alasania was Georgia’s Deputy Security Minister.

Some observers described the President’s decision to appoint Alasania to this new post as “strange,” because they doubt that Alasania will be able to have the kind of direct contact with the Abkhaz side from New York that he had from Tbilisi.

“This is absolutely not understandable and an unexplained decision,” Giorgi Khelashvili, an independent political analyst, told Civil.ge on June 13.

“I think Alasania would be much more useful here so that he could continue what he has already launched,” he added.

Opposition lawmakers have also expressed skepticism about this decision.

“Irakli Alasania has launched a very interesting dialogue with the Abkhaz side, but it seems that many people [among the authorities] are now concerned about his very positive activeness in this regard and decided to appoint him to a politically less-important position,” MP Pikria Chikhradze of the New Rights party, told reporters on June 12.

“Alasania was the only shining light in the current government… I would not have sent him overseas,” MP Giorgi Tsagareishvili, of the Industrialists Party, told reporters on June 12.

Lawmakers from the ruling party defended this decision, citing that revitalizing of the UN’s efforts will be vital for the Abkhaz peace process.

“I think Mr. Alasania will be able to continue his task even more productively there [in the UN], where issues of this kind are being solved,” MP Givi Targamadze, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Defense and security, said on June 12.

But analyst Giorgi Khelashvili says that the UN “has little say in the process of resolving this conflict.”

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