The United States does not see its role as a mediator in the current political standoff between the authorities and opposition in Georgia, Daniel Fried, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, said on November 1.
Daniel Fried, who is visiting Georgian to participate in a high-profile conference, met both the opposition politicians and the Georgian leadership on November 1 – a day before planned protest rally outside the Parliament. Holding of parliamentary elections in April, instead of late 2008 is the ten-party opposition coalition campaigning jointly for a month.
The opposition leaders have already made it clear that they expected international mediation following the crisis that would ensue after the permanent demonstrations.
“The United States does not see its role as a mediator,” Daniel Fried said while speaking at a news conference later on November 1. “I think that it is for the Georgian government, the Georgian political parties, including the Georgian opposition to work out the rules of the game in a democratic fashion, in an atmosphere of respect, and also in an atmosphere of competition, because that is what the democracy is about.”
Shortly before these remarks the U.S. senior official addressed the Tbilisi Summit 2007: Building Europe’s East with what appeared to be a carefully worded statement with an attempt to equally address both the opposition and the government.
“Georgia’s opposition remains weak,” he said when he started to talk about the recent developments in Georgia. “One demonstration, hopefully peacefully to be held tomorrow, is not necessarily a sign of strength, although it might be a prophetic of some time to come. A strong, free nation deserves a strong, free opposition. And Parliament needs to play a stronger role in Georgian politics.”
He also stressed that democracy was healthy when those in power “share authorities with an opposition in joint – albeit competitive – pursuit of the country’s greater good, rather than scoring tactical pointlessly points.”
Daniel Fried pointed out it was a test of whether Georgia’s political system could find a place for dissenting voices and rational debate.
“It is also, to be sure, a test of whether those dissenting voices can act responsibly within a democratic system to effect that change they desire and use the mechanisms of democracy to improve that system,” he added.
He said that “the stakes are high” and the outcome would resonate beyond Georgia.
Daniel Fried also reiterated the U.S. support to Georgia’s NATO integration, but he also pointed out that this support was “not a guarantee” of final accession.
“Since 1989, every country which America has supported in its NATO aspirations has succeeded. But there is a secret: they have succeeded because of their own efforts and through their own results,” he said.
He then outline some major points that should lead Georgia to NATO membership
“Advancing democratic and judicial reforms especially by ensuring judicial proceedings remain free from political influence and by cultivating – rather than merely tolerating – a viable political opposition,” Fried said.
He also pointed that peaceful resolution of the conflicts and “aggressive diplomatic efforts to forge negotiated settlement” was also an integral part of NATO integration process.