State Minister (equivalent to prime minister) Vazha Lortkipanidze declared on May 21 that “the United States is our most important partner. To state this is simply to state a fact.” Lortkipanidze cited as supportive evidence that Washington has for the past few years granted to Georgia an average of US$100 million worth of non-reimbursable assistance, that American support is “invaluable in terms of strengthening Georgia’s state sovereignty” and that U.S. military assistance enables Georgia to create its own army and border forces.
Lortkipanidze contrasted U.S. policy with that of Russia, whose “reactionary forces do not accept Georgia’s independence, hamper its development, seek–sometimes with partial successes–to destabilize the country and thwart the settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia” (Radio Tbilisi, Prime News, May 21-22). Lortkipanidze made these statements during a news conference at which he was flanked by Parliament Chairman Zurab Zhvania, both being Shevardnadze proteges, though they represent different currents within Shevardnadze’s Union of Citizens of Georgia (UCG).
Lortkipanidze’s assessment is all the more significant in view of his oft-stated faith in conciliation and “partnership” with Moscow. His experience as Tbilisi’s top representative in the Russian-mediated negotiations with Abkhazia seems finally to have disabused him of that faith–or of the expediency of professing it. The timing of his statement is equally significant: It was calculated to preface the UCG’s May 22 leadership meeting which launched the party’s parliamentary election campaign. Lortkipanidze and Zhvania may well also have been briefed about the latest assassination plot against the president, which was unveiled by Georgia’s security services yesterday (see above).
TURKMEN-TURKISH AGREEMENT ON GAS DELIVERIES SIGNED.