New Defense Minister Levan Izoria (right) and new State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Ketevan Tsikhelashvili (left), August 1, 2016.
PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili appointed Levan Izoria, who up until now has served as Deputy Head of the State Security Service, as new Defense Minister, replacing Tina Khidasheli, who filed resignation last week.
Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, Deputy State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, has been promoted as the minister, replacing Paata Zakareishvili.
Resignation of Khidasheli and Zakareishvili, who are both from the Republican Party, marks the end of a coalition government between GDDG and the Republican parties.
Announcing about the decision of the Republican cabinet members to resign, one of the leaders of the party, parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili said on July 12 that although parties in the Georgian Dream ruling coalition decided to part ways and run separately in the October 8 parliamentary elections, the Republican Party was ready to remain in the coalition government with the ruling GDDG party before the end of elections.
But, according to Usupashvili, GDDG decided otherwise and told the Republican Party cabinet members to either quit the Republican Party and remain in the government or resign from cabinet posts.
Unlike Khidasheli and Zakareishvili, the third Republican cabinet member, Minister of Environment Gigla Agulashvili, opted in favor of staying in the cabinet and quitting the Republican Party.
Levan Izoria, who will be the fourth Defense Minister since the Georgian Dream coalition came into government after the October 2012 elections, was the Deputy Head of the State Security Service since August, 2015, when the security and intelligence agencies were separated from the Interior Ministry.
Before that he served as Deputy Interior Minister. Izoria was with the Free Democrats party, but when the party quit the Georgian Dream coalition in November, 2014 and some of its leaders resigned from cabinet posts – including Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze and State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Alexi Petriashvili, Izoria opted to quit the FD party and to remain in the government.
“We will continue Euro-Atlantic integration and carrying out important reforms on this path of the Euro-Atlantic integration,” Izoria said after being named by the PM as new Defense Minister.
“The second important issue – as you are aware a memorandum has been signed recently with the United States [on deepening the defense and security partnership]… related to strengthening of our country’s self-defense capabilities, and we will certainly fulfill these commitments,” Izoria said, referring to the memorandum, which was signed when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Tbilisi in early July.
Khidasheli Criticizes Izoria’s Appointment
Ex-Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli criticized PM’s decision to appoint an official from the security apparatus as head of the MoD as a “mistake”.
“It is a wrong message to our partners abroad, as well as internally, when at first Irakli Alasania, a political figure, was replaced by a security official [Mindia Janelidze] as defense minister and then Khidasheli was replaced again by a security [official]… It indicates on a very negative trend,” Khidasheli told journalists shortly after the new defense minister was appointed.
When Alasania resigned after his FD party quit the GD ruling coalition in 2014, he was replaced by secretary of the State Security and Crisis Management Council Mindia Janelidze; the latter was replaced on the Defense Minister’s post by Khidasheli in May, 2015.
New State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, has been the deputy to his predecessor Paata Zakareishvili over the past four years.
Tsikhelashvili, who is a member of the Georgian delegation in the Geneva international discussions, said: “We will continue peaceful policy… We will continue pragmatic policy, which allowed us to maintain peace in a very difficult environment.”
“We will continue the policy of de-occupation on the one hand and the policy of dialogue with the Abkhaz and Ossetian societies on the other, which is oriented towards the confidence building and reconciliation,” she said.
PM Kvirikashvili thanked two former ministers – Khidasheli and Zakareishvili for their service and “cooperation” and said that “a lot of work has been done.”
“I hope very much that all the successful reforms will continue,” PM Kvirikashvili said. “Our country’s defense and the Georgian armed forces will always be the government’s top priority.”
“I am confident that [the new ministers] will be successful. Lots of ambitious reforms lie ahead of us,” the PM added.
These changes in the government does not require approval from the Parliament, which is now in summer recess; confidence vote from the legislative body is only needed when PM or more than one-third of 20-member cabinet is replaced.