U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Matthew Bryza, said he hoped the opposition’s planned protest rallies from April to demand President Saakashvili’s resignation, would lead to a direct dialogue between the government and the opposition.
Bryza, who has been the State Department’s point man for Caucasus since 2005, spent most of his second day of visit on Saturday talking with broad range of opposition leaders. Speaking at a news conference on March 14, Bryza said that although discussions on how to put into practice the Georgia-U.S. charter on strategic partnership was key goal of his visit, ongoing political developments also topped the agenda.
The U.S. diplomat said the planned protest rallies in April showed that there were “many people who believe that there needs to be some sort of change or acceleration of change within Georgia’s emerging democracy.”
He also said that “everybody agrees” more needs to be done for improving judicial reform and media freedom; strengthening democratic institutions and distribution of powers, as well as for ensuring rule of law and prison reforms.
Bryza, however, also said that he had heard even from some opposition leaders, “maybe not enthusiastic, but still recognition that there have been some positive developments” since November, 2007.
“It is our great hope that the event of April will energize society and lead the opposition, government and politically neutral people to get down to a very serious work that lies ahead to strengthen democracy,” he said. “I hope that the protest will lead to a dialogue directly between the government and the opposition.”
Mentioning of the date of next president elections in 2013 by Bryza in his remarks on March 13 and the way it was reported by some Georgian media sources triggered some sort of controversy as the issue remains politically sensitive with the opposition demanding early presidential elections.
He said after meeting with Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Bakradze, that political discussions in the country would “help strengthen Georgian democracy, which is the highest interest of ours here in this part of the world and get ready for the next round of elections scheduled for 2013.” Some reports by the Georgian media sources and even a press release posted on the Parliament’s website, were suggesting that the remarks were made in the context the next elections should be held as scheduled in 2013.
“What I said and what I mean is - that is a fact that the presidential elections are scheduled for 2013,” Bryza said at the news conference on March 14. “The United States has nothing to do with setting of that date; we have no way or no right to judge which date is a proper date; that’s a decision that only the people of Georgia can take.”
In Tbilisi Bryza also met with Ilia II, the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church. “His holiness was talking about the possibility, the need for us – the United States, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia to work together to create zone of peace in the South Caucasus. That’s the most elegant and simple way to articulate what the most fundamental goal of my country is for the South Caucasus,” the U.S. diplomat said and specified later that it was not a formal proposal, instead it was a general aspiration.