Zurab Nogaideli, a former Prime Minister who now leads Movement for Fair Georgia, said on January 26, he would visit Moscow next month to sign “a cooperation agreement” between his party and Russia’s ruling party United Russia.
Nogaideli visited Moscow four times late last year and during his recent visit in late December he met with Russia’s PM Vladimir Putin. Some opposition politicians have criticized the move.
Salome Zourabichvili, ex-foreign minister and leader of Georgia’s Way party, said on January 25 that it was ”senseless” to engage in talks with the Russian authorities while having nor official status to represent the country, neither “people’s mandate.”
She said that such moves would only “discredit” the opposition and divert the opposition’s focus from the major internal political issues. Zourabishvili said talks with Russia was something, which should be addressed by the opposition after coming into power
Nogaideli defended his moves by arguing that his tactic of engaging in talks with the Russian authorities “works” and cited a release of three Georgian teenagers by breakaway South Ossetia’s authorities in December and three charter flights conducted by the Georgian Airways to Moscow in January. The Georgian teenagers were released in December after intensive mediation between the sides by Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg. The release came when Nogaideli was visiting Tskhinvali where he met with South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity.
On January 26 Nogaideli’s party hosted in Tbilisi a conference on Georgia’s foreign policy – the event shunned away by most of the opposition parties. Leaders from Conservative Party and Party of People participated.
“The Georgian authorities try to seed a perception in the society that those willing to have a dialogue with Russia are against of Georgia’s western orientation,” MP Petre Mamradze of the Movement for Fair Georgia said.
Conservative Party leader, Zviad Dzidziguri, said it was high time “to remove taboo” on discussions about relations with Russia and NATO integration.