The active engagement of the EU in conflict resolution processes will be among top priorities, Davit Bakradze, the new state minister for conflict resolution issues said on July 19.
Bakradze, who was chairman of the parliamentary committee for Euro-Atlantic integration issues, replaced Merab Antadze on July 19. The latter was appointed deputy foreign minister in charge of relations with Russia – the position he held before becoming the state minister last July.
“Radical changes have already occurred in respect of conflict resolution issues in the last year and a half,” he said, naming the establishment of a Tbilisi-backed provisional administration in South Ossetia and the presence of the Abkhaz government-in-exile in upper Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia.
He said these two developments had “drastically changed power configurations” on the ground both in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“There is no need to drastically change policy,” he said, “I will try to contribute to this process based on my previous experience [in the parliament] and based on contacts I have in EU member states and elsewhere.”
“So one of my top priorities will be to engage more actively EU member states in the conflict resolution process,” he added.
Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze also stressed Bakradze's “good contacts both in the United States and Europe, which will be useful in his future work.”
She said on July 19 that Bakradze also had what it took “to continue talks with the de facto authorities [in Tskhinvali] and naturally with the provisional administration.”
MP Kote Gabashvili, who chairs the parliamentary committee for foreign affairs, said the cabinet change was as a result of “a new dimension” in the South Ossetian conflict resolution process – apparently a reference to Dimitri Sanakoev’s Tbilisi-backed administration.
"This new dimension needs new approaches," Gabashvili said on July 19, "and I think that it was a very good decision to select Mr. Bakradze for this position.”
The reshuffle comes after President Saakashvili told his government colleagues on July 18 that “conflict resolution efforts should become much more intensive and efficient.”
He announced plans to set up a government commission to negotiate South Ossetia’s status with the Sanakoev administration and warned cabinet members that “we have timeframes; so we should work round-the-clock.”
Davit Bakradze, 35, was chairman of the parliamentary committee for Euro-Atlantic integration issues. He was also a co-chairman of the EU-Georgian Parliamentary Cooperation Committee and in that capacity he contributed to the organization of a visit by Dimitri Sanakoev to Brussels, which was an important part of Tbilisi’s policy of promoting Sanakoev internationally.
Trained in physics, Bakradze joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1997 and became chief of the disarmament and arms control unit in the ministry a year later. In 2002 he joined the National Security Council (NSC) and became head of the NSC’s department for foreign policy and conflicts in 2003. He was elected to the parliament through the National Movement party-list in 2004.