The opposition leaders hailed planned meeting with President Saakashvili for May 11 as their first “major success” claiming that it marks the end the authorities’ tactic of “ignoring” the ongoing street protests.
“I know you have mixed feelings about these talks,” Salome Zourabichvili, a former foreign minister and leader of Georgia’s Way party, told protesters outside the Parliament. “On the one hand you are glad that for the first time since the launch of the protest rallies 30 days ago, Saakashvili has at last understood what is going on and realized that it is no longer possible to continue policy of ignoring and that is our first serious success.”
“But at the same time, I know that you also have sense of doubt and fear: what if he [Saakashvili] will again deceive us... These will be very difficult negotiations, because it is extremely hard to convince a person that it will be better for the country if he quits [the post],” she added.
Zourabichvili is among the group of opposition leaders who have been selected to represent those opposition parties, which are behind the ongoing protests, at the meeting with the President. Three other negotiators are: Irakli Alasania, a former ambassador to UN and leader of Alliance for Georgia; Kakha Shartava, leader of National Forum and Levan Gachechiladze, an individual opposition politician.
Irakli Alasania said on May 11, that the talks “are without preconditions.”
“This is a very positive step made by both the authorities and the opposition,” he said in televised remarks. “I hope that this meeting will become a genuine start of coming out from the crisis.”
Gubaz Sanikidze of the National Forum told the protesters at the same rally that President Saakashvili had offered the opposition to hold the meeting in a newly constructed glass building of the Interior Ministry in the suburb of Tbilisi.
“And it is very symbolic,” he said, “it demonstrates who is in fact in charge in this country; it demonstrates that Vano Merabishvili [the interior minister] governs this country... He [Saakashvili] is a hostage of Merabishvili.”
When Sanikidze announced about the venue of the meeting it triggered some boos from the crowd. Davit Berdzenishvili of the Republican Party, however, told the rally: “We have offered his [Saakashvili] – meet us anytime, anywhere; if he wants to meet us there, we will go there.”
The opposition leaders also called on supporters “not to relax.” “We have gained an advantage as we have destroyed the authorities’ myth that as if the opposition was not in favor of talks,” Gubaz Sanikidze said. “But it will be a very difficult process.”
He also said that large-scale protest rallies were especially needed now as “back-up” to negotiating process.
“The processes enter into a decisive phase,” Eka Beseila of the Movement for United Georgia party said at the rally. “We should try everything that may bring us to our major goal… We should be ready to continue this struggle to the end, which is the resignation of Saakashvili.”
“The fact that the meeting will take place in the Interior Ministry’s building means that we live in the police state, in Vano’s state, in the country where the President is afraid to meet the opposition in his residence,” Beselia said.