|From left to right: Davit Gamkrelidze; Irakli Alasania and Davit Usupashvili, February 23. Photo: InterPressNews.|
Irakli Alasania, Georgia’s former UN envoy, announced about setting up of an alliance with opposition New Rights and Republican parties on February 23.
Alasania has been named as the chairman of newly set up alliance and Davit Usupashvili, the leader of Republican Party and Davit Gamkrelidze, the leader of New Rights Party – co-chairmen. Usupashvili said at a joint news conference that the alliance would nominate Alasania as the presidential candidate in case of early elections.
“The Alliance for Georgia” – a name of the group – called on President Saakashvili to agree within next ten days on holding a referendum to find out whether the voters want early presidential elections or not.
”As far as Mikheil Saakashvili has not enough political will to take an appropriate decision in the existing political situation and to resign, we give him ten days to call a referendum and let the Georgian people decide,” Alasania said. “After expiration of that deadline we will act together with our compatriots in a way as the country’s interests dictate us.”
According to the constitution, one of the options to call a referendum is to collect signatures of 200,000 voters.
Davit Usupashvili, the leader of Republican Party, explained later on the same day that achieving referendum through collection of 200,000 signatures was not the option the alliance would follow, because the procedure was time consuming and according to the law it might take about six months. He said that instead the alliance planned to start an active campaigning after ten days involving meetings with voters. The campaigning may also involve collection of signatures to further strengthen their position and also possible demonstrations, rallies and “picketing” as well, Usupashvili said.
Earlier on February 23, Alasania said that it was a responsibility of both the opposition and the authorities “not to lead the situation towards the revolutionary scenario.”
“If no other ways are left for the society, the [society’s] mood may incline towards [revolutionary scenario]; that is why it is so necessary now to give the society a chance to make a choice,” Alasania said. “That is why we are talking about the referendum as one possible alternative.”
Before making the presentation of the new alliance, Alasania met with a group of students in the Tbilisi State University where he mainly spoke about Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
He said that years ago he thought the use of force was the only way to resolve the secessionist conflicts and added that it was major reason behind his decision to joint the security structures.
“I will tell you frankly; I believed that the only way to return of territories, lost as a result of the armed conflict, was through use of military force. That was my belief, which was based on my inexperience and based on the emotional background which was prevailing in Georgia 1993, 94 and 95. I saw no other way to resolve those conflicts,” Alasania said.
Alasania said that because of his “personal tragedy” suffered in Abkhaz conflict of early 90s it was “even hard to imagine for me sitting along with the Abkhazians at the same table.”
Father of Irakli Alasania, Mamia Alasania, was executed, together with Zhiuli Shartava, head of the local government in Abkhazia, after Sokhumi was captured by separatist militias in September, 1993.
He said that this “belief” changed “in essence” after he personally started to engage in direct contacts with the Abkhaz side in 2004.
“At the very first meeting with [the Abkhaz side] I became convinced that it was possible to resolve the problem through direct talks, because I have seen that the Abkhaz side’s goal also is to create conditions for long-term stable and for preserving their ethnic identity,” Alasania said and added that although it had always been difficult for the Abkhaz side to accept “the idea of co-existence within joint state borders,” but they had never shunned away from talking about “the forms of co-existence” during the direct talks, held without mediators.
He then recalled that after becoming engaged in the Abkhaz affairs, elaboration of document envisaging two principles – return of displaced persons and non-use of force – started. The first attempt to strike such deal was made in December, 2005, he said, but failed because of “lack of political courage” among both the Georgian and Abkhaz sides.
“In the Georgian side I also mean myself,” Alasania continued. “The both sides had an impression that the society – the both Abkhaz and Georgian – would not accept this move and would have been regarded as a weakness of their authorities. That was the first important lessen that I have learnt as a negotiator: there is need for the society to be permanently involved in the ongoing processes; we should be explaining the society on the daily basis what decisions are made and why the direct dialogue should be the focus instead of military rhetoric. That was the key mistake that the Georgian side – including me and my colleagues have done; this mistake has also been done by the Abkhaz side – we have all failed to prepare the society for signing such a document.”
Another attempt to strike the deal was made in May, 2008, he said. “The Abkhaz side at that time was sensing that the disaster was approaching; the Russian side was pushing Sokhumi on staging provocations on the upper Kodori Gorge direction; so they sensed the need of such document,” Alasania said.
He said that at the follow up meeting in Stockholm the Abkhaz side, under pressure of the Russian side, pushed for additional conditions related with the withdrawal of the Georgian police forces from the upper Kodori Gorge, which made the deal impossible.
Although reiterating his previous statements that the Georgian leadership’s “militaristic rhetoric and over-exaggerated propaganda of military build-up,” as well as ignoring of possibilities for direct contacts with the Abkhaz side contributed to leading to the August war, he also added that he did not want to speak on details and on whether it was or not possible to avert “the provocation” particularly already in August.
“Already in August Russia’s military machine was fully in operation and from New York it was difficult for me to fully assess whether it was possible or not to avert already started escalation,” he said. “But as a person with some military education and experience I can say that, I think, our response on shelling of the Georgian villages should not have been military assault; first of all we should have protected those villages under our control [inside breakaway South Ossetia] and evacuated civilians from those villages.”
He said that it was now up to the EU-funded inquiry mission, involving “competent members,” to find out details.
Alasania said that Georgia needed to restore confidence among its western allies and also assure the Abkhaz and South Ossetian side that it would not use force. “One of the ways to do that is to launch development of our army not in an aggressive way, but in line of self-defense,” he said.