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Georgia Prepares for Bush's Visit
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 2 May.'05 / 13:27
Nino Khutsidze, Giorgi Sepashvil

Tbilisites have not seen renovation works of
this scale for many years.
When workers and construction firms started large-scale renovation work on façades and roads, from the Tbilisi airport to the downtown of the capital city, Tbilisi, authorities set May 9 as the deadline for finishing these works, as U.S. President George W. Bush is scheduled to come to Georgia that day. Political analysts say the visit underlines the fact that the United States no longer considers Russia as the sole driving force in the post-Soviet space.

George W. Bush, who will reportedly be accompanied by a 700-member U.S. delegation, will travel to Georgia from Moscow, where he plans to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Dozens of welcoming billboards installed in Tbilisi and other towns of Georgia indicate that George W. Bush will address Georgian citizens from Freedom Square, outside the Tbilisi Municipality, early on May 10. No other details of the schedule for this visit have been unveiled by officials yet.

Web-site www.georgiawelcomesusa.com, which was created by the Georgian authorities especially for this visit, says that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili will address the nation on May 3 and “will talk on the great importance of the visit that emphasizes the U.S. support for ongoing democratic reforms in Georgia and its recognition of Georgia’s efforts to achieve peaceful resolution of conflicts and differences.”

A banner depicting the official logo of the
U.S. President’s visit calls on citizens
to attend George W. Bush’s public
speech at Freedom Square on May 10.
Political analyst Archil Gegeshidze, from the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS), says that the U.S. has three major interests in the South Caucasus which makes this region important for Washington: promotion of democratic values; diversification of energy resources; and Russia’s role.

“Georgia is like litmus paper, ground where Russia’s double-face is always well seen, ground where Russia is always being well tested in the eyes of the West. Georgia is like a country for experiments, where new models of conflict resolution should undergo tests, where dynamic process are underway. So our price on the international market is much higher than can be understood by [just] taking into account the small size of our country,” Archil Gegeshidze told Civil Georgia.

He said that the Bush’s visit will also be an attempt to give a new boost to Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflict resolutions. “Bush’s visit can also trigger more international involvement in the conflict resolution process,” Archil Gegeshidze added.

But political analyst Ghia Nodia from the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD) says that “at this current stage the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia is much more important for the United States.”

“Right now, the issue of military bases is a higher priority for the United States than conflict resolution, so I do not think that Bush’s visit, which underlines the fact that Georgia is a major ally in the South Caucasus for the United States’, will become a serious turning point in the conflict resolution process,” Ghia Nodia told Civil Georgia.

He said that during his talks with the Georgian leadership, the U.S. President is also expected to emphasize those concerns which still exist over human rights and democracy in Georgia. “It is of vital importance for the United States how Georgia tackles these problems,” Ghia Nodia added.

Tina Khidasheli of an influential human rights advocacy NGO Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) was among those 21 East European Freedom Champions who met with President Bush in Bratislava on February 24, 2005. “I think Mr. Bush will make a special emphasis on democratic values in Georgia during his public speech in Tbilisi,” She told Civil Georgia.

“The U.S. position is clear: it supports democratic reforms and not revolutions. So, if we want a strong partnership with the United States, those changes which came about as a result of the 2003 Rose Revolution should be followed up with democratic reforms,” Tina Khidasheli added.

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