First meeting between negotiators from the opposition and the authorities since the launch of street protests a month ago, ended without result late on May 8.
Negotiators from the both sides said after an hour long meeting that the agenda of the meeting was a sticking point.
A group of four opposition negotiators went to the meeting with Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Bakradze, with an intention to arrange the talks between President Saakashvili and the opposition leaders; while Bakradze and other representatives of the authorities rejected the opposition’s agenda and instead offered moving immediately to issue-based discussion of the authorities’ agenda of reforms.
Davit Bakradze said after the meeting that he was “disappointed” over the failure to agree on the agenda, but also said he hoped that the following meetings would be fruitful.
“I welcome the fact in itself that such meeting was held,” the Parliamentary Chairman said. “In any case a meeting can be assessed as positive.”
“Naturally, we should not expect that it will be possible to resolve all those disagreements and problems, which exist between the authorities and the opposition during one meeting. But in any case, contact, communication and dialogue are necessary. We acquainted the other side with those concrete proposals, concrete reforms, which we believe to be carried out for the democratic development,” he said.
“I want to express my disappointment that unfortunately the other side’s vision was different… They viewed this meeting only as a technical preparation [for talks with President Saakashvili],” Bakradze added.
Later in televised remarks, the Parliamentary Chairman also said that during the meeting the authorities put forth their proposals for democratic reforms, involving setting up of a commission to prepare draft of a new constitution; election code reform; direct election of Tbilisi mayor and reforms related with judiciary and self-governance.
“But we have not received answers from them on these matters citing that they were not mandated to discuss those issues,” Bakradze said.
He, however, also said that the authorities were ready to discuss these concrete issues, “including on a higher level” and reiterated that the President himself was ready for a meeting.
“But we should prepare for that type of meeting – we should know what kind of expectations should we have from this meeting [on higher level],” Bakradze said.
Negotiators from the opposition, however, said that they were insisting on talks between the President and opposition leaders without any preconditions.
“We demand unconditional meeting with the President,” Gubaz Sanikidze of the National Forum said after the meeting. “I hope that the second meeting will yield results. But I rule out third or fourth meeting on the same matter.”
He said that the opposition was ready to engage in issue-based, in-depth talks only with President Saakashvili.
“Those negotiators [present at the meeting from the authorities] are not decision-makers in this country; we want to meet with the President who is key decision-maker. Mr. Bakradze unfortunately is not the figure who is a political decision-maker,” Sanikidze said.
Apart of Bakradze, the authorities were represented at the meeting held in Sheraton Metekhi Palace hotel by lawmakers Petre Tsiskarishvili, leader of parliamentary majority; Goka Gabashvili; Giorgi Meladze, chair of parliamentary committee on sector economy and Zurab Melikishvili, as well as by Minister for Prison System and Penitentiary, Dimitry Shashkin.
“We are ready for talks with Saakashvili without preconditions at any time and at any place,” Tina Khidasheli of the Republican Party, part of Alliance for Georgia, said after the meeting. “They [the authorities] instead offered to discuss with them before hand those issues, which might become topic of the meeting Saakashvili; but we are offering unconditional meeting on the higher level.”
Two other opposition negotiators were Viktor Dolidze from the Irakli Alasania’s political team, part of Alliance for Georgia and Koka Guntsadze, an individual opposition politician.
The group of negotiators was selected by the opposition parties, behind the ongoing protest rallies, earlier on May 8 after the leaders met in the office of Nino Burjanadze’s party.
The meeting and consequent selection of negotiators followed remarks by the Parliamentary Chairman made early on Friday. He said in televised remarks that he was ready for an immediate meeting with the opposition.
Along with selection of negotiators, the opposition leaders also announced that they were going to meet Bakradze only with one agenda – to prepare talks with President Saakashvili, in particular to agree on exact format, date and venue.
Meanwhile, opposition leaders again called on supporters to gather outside the parliament for a large-scale rally on May 9 to mark the launch of street protests a month ago.