Salome Zurabishvili: Azerbaijan’s taking lead in the South Caucasus may cause biggest states to lose interest in Georgia – EXCLUSIVE

Salome Zurabishvili: Azerbaijan’s taking lead in the South Caucasus may cause biggest states to lose interest in Georgia – <font color=#FF0000>EXCLUSIVE</font>
# 17 October 2007 10:29 (UTC +04:00)
- Closest allies of Saakashvili during “Rose revolution” - you, Georgi Khaindrava and Irakli Okruashvili are against him at present. Why closest allies turn to violent enemy of the President?
- I have never been Saakashvili’s ally. Salome Zurabishvili always supported democratic development of Georgia. I have always tried development of Georgia as a democratic, independent and free state. I have never been supporter of Saakashvili and his party. I was not the member of National Movement Party when I took a post. I am supporter of Georgia, but not Saakashvili.
- What is your assessment to the happening occurred around Irakli Okruashvili?
- The meeting held in Tbilisi with the participation of 20 thousand people was not for Irakli Okruashvili. Okruashvili’s speech revealed realities in the society. Questions occurred regarding democratic values of the government, legal management system, bribery occurred during privatization. Okruashvili’s speech brought these to the agenda again. Zurab Jvaniya’s death coincided with Okruashvili’s speech. Nobody can ask President who assumes main responsibility such questions. Irakli Okruashvili’s arrest the day after his speech proves that all he said are true. Arrest of former Defense Minister is of political character. His arrest when he established party pursues political purposes. People held protest action and were against appearance of new political prisoner. All the happenings in jail show that there are rules in Georgia remained from Soviet period. I can assure you that Irakli Okruasvili was exerted pressure in the jail. No any man can spoil his political image due to his desire.
- Okruashvili knew that he will be arrested after his speech, did not he?
- I do not say that all he said are true. But making such statement in jail is suicide from political point of view. I can not say what pressure he was exerted in jail. I am not his supporter, I do not regard Okruashvili leader of the opposition. Moreover, it is not right to come into politics in such way in democratic country. Court should investigate whether statements of ex-defense minister are true or not. I can only comment on this issue from political point of view.
- Will the happenings around Okruashvili have negative influence on opposition?
- Happenings around Okruashvili may only have negative influence on his party. The results of the survey show that 93.8% of the people believe his first speech, not the second one. Okruashvili’s speech will have negative impact on his political image. People may think that he is a weak-willed person. This case had a positive influence on the opposition’s image. These happenings exposed the government forces.
- What does Saakashvili want to achieve by rescheduling presidential and parliamentary elections?
- President does not have the right to reschedule the elections in any democratic country. Parliament is formed on people’s opinion and every parliamentarian functions in a certain period of time. Saakashvili and his party have lost its popularity after the recent happenings. He wants to prolong his mandate by rescheduling the elections. The president tries to restore what he has lost by creating new jobs and increasing salaries. On the other hand, Saakashvili has already collected necessary funds for winning the elections.
- How do you value the opposition’s chances of winning the elections?
- There is not a single representative of the opposition in Central Election Commission. They do what they want, our victory in the elections will depend on fair and transparent elections.
- How do you see the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict as a person having experience in foreign policy?
- We also have internal conflicts. Actually, all the three conflicts – Nagorno Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia conflicts are the problems created and not solved by the Soviet Union. I think that these conflicts should be solved altogether, as this is one and the same region. The conflicts can be solved by involving foreign organizations and mainly the Council of Europe. We have observed in the recent two years that international organizations are not so active in the settlement of the conflicts. But these three South Caucasian republics should find the solution to the conflict among themselves. Unfortunately, Georgia is not closely involved in the settlement of its neighbors’ problems. But participation and assistance of our country in this process is very important.
- In one your interviews you said that Azerbaijan attracts the interests of the US and West in Georgia, by taking lead in the South Caucasus. How can you ground it?
- As you know Georgia has been leader in the South Caucasus through the history. Georgia has always fought for leadership in the region. Now it is about to lose the fight. Azerbaijan holds the main place in this fight. Though Georgia is in the center, it can not efficiently use its position. Azerbaijan’s taking lead in the South Caucasus may cause biggest states to lose interest in Georgia. /APA/