Washington, DC-On Friday, February 29, 2008, Mamuka Tsereteli, President of the Georgian Association and Nino Japaridze, Board Member of the Georgian Association, along with representatives of the Central and East Europe Coalition (CEEC) met with Anthony Lake, Ph.D., senior foreign policy advisor for Senator Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Joining Dr. Lake, and facilitating the meeting, was Mark Brzezinski, also a well-known foreign policy expert. In his opening remarks, Anthony Lake touched on many important issues of concern to the member organizations of the CEEC.
Among the topics of discussion were NATO enlargement (especially in light of the upcoming Bucharest Summit in April 2008) and the backsliding of democratic trends in the Russian Federation. In regards to NATO, Lake clearly stated that the enlargement process “reinforces democracy in all nations of Europe,” and brings all European nations together. Anthony Lake described the process itself as “not just of strategic importance [to the United States], but of morality, as well.”
Russia’s recent trend of more authoritarian control also sparked a few comments from Lake. Having expressed concern for the current government policies of President Vladimir Putin, Lake stressed, “We must engage them [the Russians] on issues of mutual interest and concern, but at the same time broaden our relations with the Russian people, not just the Russian government.”
“This meeting gave the Georgian Association the opportunity to discuss issues of mutual concern and interest and we look forward to working closely with policymakers in Washington on these key issues for our community,” Mamuka Tsereteli noted.
Washington, DC. The Georgian Association in the USA was dismayed by some of the provisions of the recent UN resolution on Georgia. On October 13th, 2006, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1716 which prolongs the mandate of UNOMIG (the United Nations Organization Mission in Georgia) in the Abkhazian region of Georgia. UNOMIG was set up in August 1993 following an agreement to end the armed secessionist conflict in Abkhazia and currently has 121 military observers and 12 civilian police officers in place, as well as nearly 300 civilian staff members.
The Georgian Association objects not to the extension of UNOMIG’s mission, which the Georgian government and the majority of the Georgian people support, but to the distorted information contained in the resolution. Furthermore, the US government’s participation in the drafting of the resolution suggests to us and the rest of the world that the US administration has shifted its policy towards tolerance for Russia’s de facto annexation of Georgian territory.
The resolution declares that the “new and tense situation” in Georgian-Abkhazian relations resulted “at least in part, from the Georgian special operation in the upper Kodori Valley”, a part of Abkhazia still under Georgian government control. In fact, the Georgian government reduced tensions in the Valley by its special operation which ended the lawless rule of Georgian bands there this July. Since October, the Georgian government has permitted Russian dominated CIS peacekeeping troops to monitor the situation in the Upper Kodori Valley. Such monitoring was not possible before the Georgian operation. The one-sidedness of UNSC resolution 1716 is reflected in its condemnation of the Georgian government for “militant rhetoric and provocative actions” and its praise for the CIS peacekeeping troops and their “stabilizing role.” In reality, the CIS peacekeepers have proved completely ineffective at protecting the local Georgian population and have regularly participated in anti-Georgian actions in Gali and other regions of Abkhazia. This is why the Georgian government is asking for the replacement of CIS peacekeepers with an international force.
This resolution is a step backwards and a disappointment to the Georgian people who have come to expect US government support for its attempt to protect Georgia’s sovereign rights and its citizens in the territory of Abkhazia. This resolution comes at a time when the Russian government is persecuting Georgian citizens and Russian citizens of Georgian origin in Russian cities following the Georgian government’s arrest – and later return – of Russian spies this October. This anti-Georgian campaign orchestrated by the Russian government has led to the closure of Georgian businesses in Russia, the illegal and often forced entry into Georgian homes by Russian officials, pressure on the Russian Ministry of Education to supply information on Georgian pupils, and the forced deportation of Georgians. It is a dangerous policy of cleansing that reflects the anti-democratic and authoritarian policies of the Russian government. US support of UNSC resolution 1716 condones Russian de facto annexations abroad and ignores Russian discriminatory policies at home.
On May 21, 2007 the Georgian Association hosted a reception at the Senate Russell building in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Georgian Association in the United States, and to celebrate the National Independence Day of the Republic of Georgia. The Independence Day is officially recognized on May 26th.
At the reception, the Georgian Association honored Senator Richard Lugar (R – Indiana, Committee on Foreign Relations) for his continued support of issues important to the Country and people of Georgia. Following brief remarks by Mamuka Tsereteli, President of the Association, the Senator was presented a Georgian icon of Saint George. The icon, set in walnut wood, represents historical religious traditions, and modern artistry.
This event brought together Association members, friends of Georgia, U.S. and Georgian government representatives and business leaders, and the Georgian diplomatic community. Among these guests were Ambassador Sikharulidze, Ambassador Alasania, Archbishop Nicolas of Samtskhe Javakheti, Georgian Minister of Environment and Natural Resource Protection – David Tkeshelashvili, and Frank P. Greinke, the newly appointed Honorary Consul of Georgia in California.
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Contact: Maka Gabelia