Anti-NATO remarks voiced by a senior lawmaker from the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) party, who also spoke out against planned large-scale military exercises Noble Partner, and consequent reactions to those comments resulted into PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Republican Party leaders criticizing each other.
GDDG and Republican Party remain in the ruling Georgian Dream coalition with Republicans holding three cabinet posts.
On May 7 MP Tamaz Mechiauri of the GDDG party, who chairs parliamentary committee for budget and finances, criticized Noble Partner military exercises, planned for May 11-26 outside Tbilisi with the participation of Georgian, U.S., and UK troops. Commenting on Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement, which condemned Noble Partner drills as provocative, MP Mechiauri said that holding of such drills in Georgia may create “a serious threat” to the country and also suggested – alluding to Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli of the Republican Party, that some political groups are trying to use such drills for their political purposes to prove the “necessity of their presence” in the Georgian politics.
State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Paata Zakareishvili, who is a member of the Republican Party, complained on May 8 about GDDG party’s muted reaction to MP Mechiauri’s remarks. He told Rustavi 2 TV that GDDG’s “silence” was more significant development in this situation rather than a single MP’s position in itself. “For me it is more important to know how the Georgian Dream as a party views his remarks,” Zakareishvili said.
In separate remarks, made on May 9, MP Mechiauri said that he is against of Georgia’s NATO membership in the condition when the country’s territorial integrity is violated, arguing that joining the Alliance in these circumstances would amount to “saying no to Abkhazia and South Ossetia” – position echoing the one usually voiced by those political parties, which are described by opponents because of such stance as “pro-Russian” forces.
PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili reacted on May 9 by distancing himself from MP Mechiauri’s remarks, but at the same time criticizing his cabinet member for complaining about the governing political force and its reaction.
“I have to note with great regret that [MP Mechiauri’s] remarks are completely out of line with foreign policy course pursued by the Georgian Dream and the Georgian government,” the PM said and added that MP Mechiauri’s remarks “do not express priorities of government’s foreign policy.”
“As far as remarks made by Paata Zakareishvili are concerned – about being surprised by Georgian Dream’s silence – I am surprised by Paata Zakareishvili’s remarks because this is absolutely non-objective statement. There have been numerous statements by the government, parliamentarians… about our clear foreign policy priorities,” the PM said.
“I think that it is very surprising and also unacceptable when a government member criticizes the governing force,” Kvirikashvili said. “I respect Paata Zakareishvili very much, but I think that his remarks were hasty and far from objectivity.”
MP Davit Berdzenishvili, who chairs Republican Party’s parliamentary faction, responded that instead of “formally distancing himself” from Mechiauri’s remarks, the PM should dismiss him from the GDDG if he really intends to pursue his declared goal of party’s “renewal.”
MP Berdzenishvili said that the upcoming congress of GDDG party on May 14, where PM Kvirikashvili is set to become the party chairman, will show whether the PM can avoid becoming “a hostage” of, as he put it, “retrograde” segment of the GDDG party. MP Berdzenishvili, however, also expressed doubt about the PM’s ability to reshuffle the GDDG party.
He called on PM Kvirikashvili to dismiss MP Mechiauri and his sympathizers from the GDDG party and “not to become their hostage.”
MP Berdzenishvili also called on ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, founder of the GDDG party, “to immediately and clearly express his stance over NATO.” He said that Ivanishvili has been in favor of NATO and the EU membership, but Mechiauri and his sympathizers are trying to instill a notion in the public that their anti-Western sentiments echo Ivanishvili’s stance.