Books on Georgia
Update No: 314 - (22/02/07)
The Tbilisi-Vilnius axis
Existing members of both the EU and NATO find it all rather blasé. Indeed, NATO
members are in considerable chagrin at the moment, given the parlous goings-on
in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Potential adherents to both organizations are another matter. For them the
upside of membership is huge - greater distance from Moscow's unwelcome
attentions. There is no former Soviet republic of which this is more true than
It is forging a new relationship with Lithuania, already a member of both
organizations. High-level Georgian-Lithuanian talks on February 2nd in Tbilisi
included the issue of deploying a Georgian military unit and civilian
specialists to Afghanistan with NATO forces there. Lithuania's Prime Minister
Gediminas Kirkilas, Minister of Foreign Affairs Petras Vaitiekunas, Chief of
Staff Brig.-General Vitalijus Vaiksnoras, and Defense Ministry Undersecretary
Renatas Norkus discussed this issue with their Georgian counterparts during the
Lithuania operates a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Ghor province as
part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
One option under discussion for the Georgian unit is to join the Lithuanian PRT.
Georgian soldiers trained in mountainous terrain in their own country could add
value to NATO's multinational contingent in Afghanistan.
Summing up Tbilisi's position, State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration
Giorgi Baramidze expressed readiness to deploy a highly trained military unit to
Afghanistan, as soon as the NATO Command determines the size and place of
deployment and gives the green light.
Georgia made this offer to the Alliance officially in December 2006, immediately
after NATO's summit in Riga, where Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
urgently appealed for reinforcements to ISAF, amid incomprehension from many
"old" allied countries. Already during the summit, Georgia's
delegation, led by Parliament Chairwoman Nino Burjanadze and including the
influential parliamentarians Giga Bokeria and Nika Rurua, made clear that
Georgia would make its contribution to NATO's operations in Afghanistan.
This possible new deployment, as well as Georgia's ongoing contribution to
NATO's Kosovo Force, was discussed at NATO headquarters in Brussels on February
1st as part of the NATO-Georgia's Intensified Dialogue on Membership Issues.
Tbilisi also proposes to host an air force exercise in the framework of NATO's
Individual Partnership Action Plan at one of Georgia's several upgraded
airfields this coming summer.
Georgian troops were deployed to Afghanistan for several months in 2004, when
ISAF temporarily increased its troops during the general elections there. A
platoon-size Georgian unit from the Sachkere battalion operated with a British
battalion in Afghanistan at that time.
Meanwhile, Georgia has been deploying more than 1,000 troops at any given time
to Iraq and Kosovo. A group of 60 US trainers from the Joint Multinational
Training Command is continuing a training programme for Georgian troops at the
Krtsanisi base. At present, Georgia seems to rank third overall -- behind only
the United States and Britain -- in terms of its troop contribution to US - and
NATO-led operations, if calculated relative to the troop-contributing countries'
population. According to Baramidze, any Georgian deployment to Afghanistan would
not come at the expense of the Iraq and Kosovo operations.
When the three Baltic states were candidates for NATO membership, they
successfully established a record of "behaving as de facto NATO
members." The same is currently the case with Georgia. The difference seems
to be that certain "old" members de jure tend to contribute less de
facto, compared to some new members and certainly to the aspirant country
Georgia at the present time.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli
acknowledged Lithuania's offer at the concluding news conference.
Energy crisis intensifies
Georgia is diversifying its energy supplies away from Russia as fast as it
can. The Russians are insisting on market prices for their oil and gas, which is
The Georgians cannot both be insistent on independence and demand to be
mollycoddled by Moscow forever.
But it is all happening with unseemly haste, requiring fast footwork by Tbilisi.
New oil terminus to be built on the Black Sea
President Saakashvili said on February 9 that construction of a new oil
refinery is planned on Georgia's Black Sea coast in Samegrelo region. "In
the coming months and years, along with other infrastructure projects, we are
launching the construction of a new large oil refinery," Saakashvili said.
He did not elaborate further on the issue.
Georgia has an oil terminal on the Black Sea coast at Supsa, a village located
in the Samegrelo region. Another oil terminal, the construction of which is
almost finished, is located in Kulevi, also in the Samegrelo region. Georgia
also has an oil terminal and refinery in Batumi, Adjara Autonomous Republic.
President Saakashvili was speaking in Zugdidi, Samegrelo region, where he opened
a new hazelnut-processing factory owned by Argonuts Ltd. The European Bank of
Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) supported the company with a financing
package worth US$4 million, consisting of a loan and the acquisition of a 15%
equity stake in the company.
Turkey enhances regional cooperation with Georgia and Azerbaijan
Turkey signed an agreement with Georgia and Azerbaijan on February 9th for
more regional cooperation, for energy and transportation projects in particular.
Meanwhile; Russia, Bulgaria, and Greece signed a deal in Sofia, Bulgaria on the
same day for an oil transmission pipeline extending from Burgaz, Bulgaria to
Dedeagaç (Alexandroupolis), Greece which will carry Russian oil bypassing
A similar project to carry Russian oil to the Mediterranean ports proposed by a
Turkish-Italian consortium is yet to be started.
Erdogan: Turkey Trying to Allot its Shah-Deniz Share to Georgia
Turkey is now working on allocating a part of its gas share from
Azerbaijan's Shah-Deniz field to Georgia, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
said after talks with the Georgian and Azerbaijani leaders in Tbilisi on
"We are doing our best to allocate 800 million cubic meters of gas to
Georgia from the Turkish share by this July. This is our promise," Erdogan
said at joint news conference in Tbilisi with the Georgian and Azerbaijani
But President Saakashvili said at the same news conference that Georgia will
start receiving Turkey's share of gas as soon as Shah-Deniz is put into
"First, I want to say that we will be receiving Turkey's quota as soon as
Shah-Deniz is put into operation. At the same time Azerbaijan will gradually
increase gas supplies to Georgia. This means that the share of more reliable and
cheaper gas in Georgia's gas consumption balance will increase,"
Tbilisi has already been trying for months to convince Turkey to give up part of
its Shah-Deniz gas quota in order to reduce Georgia's dependence on expensive
Russian gas, but a final agreement has not yet been reached.
According to Turkish media reports, Ankara is hesitating on the deal because it
already has commitments to deliver part of its Shah-Deniz quota to Italy and
The Turkish Prime Minister also noted at the press conference in Tbilisi that
Turkey, like Georgia and Azerbaijan, faces certain problems in energy supplies.
"But it is important to solve these problems based on solidarity between
these three countries," PM Erdogan said.
President Saakashvili noted at the news conference that the most important thing
is that the three countries have managed to put into operation an alternative
energy supply route.
"This is an alternative route for Europe [to transport] oil and gas… That
is why we call this cooperation [between the three countries] historic,"
The three leaders signed the Tbilisi declaration on common vision for regional
The transport ministers from Azerbaijan and Turkey and the economy minister of
Georgia also signed an agreement on the construction of the
Azerbaijan and Georgia signed an additional agreement envisaging the allocation
of a US$200 million loan to the Georgian side for construction and
rehabilitation of its section of the Baku-Akhalkalaki-Kars railway.
The following is the text of The Tbilisi Declaration:-
"The Tbilisi Declaration" On Common Vision for Regional Cooperation
We, the President of Georgia, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan
and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey have gathered in Tbilisi to
celebrate a new stage of intensified cooperation among our countries.
Recognizing the significance of this meeting for the shared interest of our
nations and the entire region.
Realizing that our presence today demonstrates our commitment to facilitate
economic growth, democratisation, and security in region and Europe at large
through multilateral cooperation.
Reconfirming our commitment to the provisions and principles of the European
Energy Charter Treaty.
Considering the importance of our region's crucial location in Eurasia.
Confirming our common desire and readiness to cooperate closely with all our
neighbours based on the principles of good neighbourhood, respect of
sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of internationally
Acknowledging that through our cooperation and efforts we have already
demonstrated our ability and commitment to assist each other in overcoming
Taking into account the growing role of regional initiatives in developing
positive trends worldwide.
Sharing the understanding that intensified regional cooperation and economic
growth will significantly contribute to peaceful settlement of existing
conflicts in the region, stability, democratic development and the prosperity of
Emphasizing our determination to work closely towards the development of
bilateral and multilateral interaction in various spheres of cooperation.
Confirming Turkey's significant role as a negotiating country to the EU for
further enhancing the cooperation between the region and the EU.
Stressing the importance of successful implementation of the European
Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan of Azerbaijan and the European Neighbourhood
Policy Action Plan of Georgia for the region in terms of bringing it closer to
Considering further development of the East-West Energy and
Transport Corridor as a basis of regional cooperation, have declared the
1. Today we celebrate the commencement of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars "Silk
Road" Railway project of geo-strategic importance. The realization of this
project represents one more step in further intensifying and expanding our
cooperation as well as opens new global opportunities. By doing so, we are
complementing the existing transport connections and contributing to safer and
more rapid transportation of goods and passengers between Europe and Asia.
2. With three successful energy infrastructure projects, the Baku-Supsa export
oil pipeline; Heydar Aliyev Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) export oil pipeline; and
the South Caucasus gas pipeline (Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum) our cooperation has
established a vital and secure new source of energy for Europe, increasing the
importance of the Black and Caspian Sea regions and entrusting it a significant
role by contributing to the European and wider global energy security.
3. Together, we agree to establish long-term and predictable mechanisms that
ensure the energy security of all three nations through the reliable, timely and
commercially based provision of gas and electricity based on the infrastructure
projects referenced herein. Taking into consideration the energy needs of our
countries we appreciate the start of exploitation of Shahdeniz gas condensed
field located in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea. We agree to continue
to cooperate in order to meet mutual needs for reliable and sustainable gas
4. We agree to support construction of a new electricity transmission line from
the Republic of Azerbaijan through the territory of Georgia to the Republic of
Turkey, as well as other appropriate projects, which will enhance electricity
exchange between the Parties in future.
5. Working alongside with interested countries we envisage the expansion of our
cooperation to encompass the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. We believe this approach
will further enhance energy security and contribute to greater prosperity in the
6. We believe that implementation of these projects, and more to be implemented
in the future, will create the infrastructure for economic growth and long-term
security of the region.
7. We express our readiness to further support the establishment of multilateral
cooperation that will ensure equal competitive conditions, on the basis of
diversification of supply sources, transit routes and consumption markets.
8. We support active cooperation in multilateral formats, through regional
organizations and projects that further increase and promote peace, stability
and prosperity in the region and in wider Europe.
9. We attach importance to the further steps, which will facilitate the movement
of people, goods, capital and services, as a way of fostering regional
cooperation that would also contribute to the strengthening of ties with Europe.
10. Looking to the future, we share a commitment to tangible and commercially
sustainable cooperation based on the principles of free market economy and the
common European values and experiences as an important leverage for promotion of
regional stability and security.
11. We express our belief that intensified cooperation of this nature will
enhance the ability of our countries to strengthen the security in the region
which will also have a positive impact on Europe.
12. We will continue to deepen cooperation with new activities and investments.
To this end, we have created a joint Working Group to examine and recommend
13. To contribute to the common perspectives of the region we invite our
neighbors to consider joining our efforts.
14. We express our gratitude to the Government and people of Georgia for the
warm hospitality and excellent organization of this Meeting.
15. Done in Tbilisi, on 7th February 2007, in English, in three copies, all of
them are equally authentic.
Swift Russian reaction
Regional cooperation in South Caucasus should promote "development of
multilateral links among all, without exception, countries of the region,"
the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued on February 10.
The Russian Foreign Ministry's statement is a response to the Tbilisi
Declaration on Common Vision for Regional Cooperation signed by the Georgian
President Mikheil Saakashvili, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Turkish
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Tbilisi on February 7th.
The Declaration notes that by implementing major regional projects involving oil
and gas pipelines and a railway network, the three states are establishing
"long-term and predictable" relations. Armenia has protested against
construction of a railway link which will connect Azerbaijan to Turkey via
Russia is always ready for any forms of mutually beneficial and transparent
cooperation aimed at promoting stability and social-economic prosperity in the
Caucasus, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow will "closely watch the
developments in frames of this initiative by our regional partners."
It also noted importance of the fact that the declaration contains a call
towards neighbouring countries to consider joining the initiative.
At home things are looking up, as the following attests:-
Government and opposition begin "positive and constructive"
By Ana Kamushadze
"Positive and constructive" was how opposition lawmakers described
their February 6 meeting with President Saakashvili, the first after an almost
total cessation of dialogue between the opposition and government that has
lasted for months.
Opposition politicians have long voiced their dissatisfaction with the lack of
dialogue with the ruling party, pointing to the way government politicians had
been avoiding debates with their opponents on TV talk shows and elsewhere.
President Saakashvili addressed the issue earlier in the year. "I am ready
to meet these people [opposition members] and representatives of different civil
society groups regularly, in order to have a common position on major issues,
including Georgia's foreign policy priorities, Georgia's territorial integrity,
further democratic reforms, interaction with the people… as it is in all real
and successful democracies," Saakashvili said on January 10.
This olive branch was greeted positively by most major opposition leaders, and
on February 6 the long awaited meeting, described as "civil" by
opposition leader MP Davit Berdzenishvili of the Republican Party, finally took
place. Both sides spoke of their willingness to maintain contacts and continue
dialogue in televised comments after the closed door meeting.
"After three years in office President Saakashvili at last decided to
engage in dialogue with his opponents, which is very positive… There are
issues, including foreign policy issues, over which a broad consensus is needed
in the decision-making process," Berdzenishvili told reporters shortly
before the meeting was launched in the evening on February 6.
The opposition was represented at the meeting by MP Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of
the New Rights Party; MP Zurab Tkemaladze, leader of the Industrialist Party;
and MP Davit Berdzenishvili of the Republican Party, who was representing the
Democratic Front parliamentary faction, which includes lawmakers from the
Conservative and Republican parties.
Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze and leader of the parliamentary
majority MP Maia Nadiradze represented the ruling National Movement Party.
Government officials including Giorgi Arveladze, the Economy Minister; Davit
Kezerashvili, the Defense Minister; Gela Bezhuashvili, the Foreign Minister and
Merab Antadze, the State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues, were also in
Officials said issues surrounding the secessionist conflicts, Georgia's NATO
integration, relations with Russia, and also issues which, as Berdzenishvili put
it, "none of us intend to talk about in public" topped the agenda at
After the talks MP Davit Gamkrelidze, who is a regular and fierce critic of
Mikheil Saakashvili, said that the president was "quite constructive."
He told Imedi TV that Saakashvili expressed his desire that talks of this kind
happen frequently. According to the New Rights leader, Saakashvili brought up
the authorities' alleged abuse of property rights, an accusation that has lately
featured prominently in the local media. Gamkrelidze said that president
promised to initiate a draft law which would put an end to illegal confiscations
"My feeling is that Saakashvili is really concerned about society's
reaction to this issue [the abuse of property rights], so he has decided to put
an end to this illegal activity," Gamkrelidze told the press.
The withdrawal of Georgia from the CIS, a flagship opposition demand, was also
discussed at the meeting, according to Berdzenishvili; however, there were no
commitments from the government on this issue.
The Republican Party's Berdzenishvili said that he appreciated the president's
decision to at last meet with opposition representatives. The most important
thing that Berdzenishvili sees in this is that the government has accepted that
there is an opposition, and that the president didn't use any "sarcastic
terms" to describe them.
"It doesn't matter if I'm confident or not about the meeting. The main
thing is that the ruling party and the opposition came to a consensus. We talked
about how it's important for Georgia to integrate into NATO, how it's important
to settle the situations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, about how democratic
institutions must be strengthened." Berdzenishvili said. He also said that
the necessity of creating a better legislative base to secure political
pluralism was also noted during the meeting
Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze told reporters that the meeting was
"very open and very frank." Burjanadze hopes the meeting will help to
increase the level of political culture in the country.
Moscow awaiting Georgian moves to improve relations
Russia expects reciprocal moves from Georgia to normalize relations between the
two countries after Moscow signed a natural gas exports agreement and made a
decision to return its ambassador to Tbilisi, a Russian government source said
on January 19th, Interfax News Agency reported.
"The process of normalising relations is always a bilateral process, which
requires efforts by two states. Therefore, we will be closely following the
development dynamics of Russian-Georgian relations, including reciprocal steps
on the part of Georgia. At the very least, we hope anti-Russian rhetoric will be
abandoned," the source told Interfax. "Currently, certain cooperative
moves are on the agenda in the bilateral dialogue with Tbilisi, and the
president of the Russian Federation spoke about this at a meeting with the
ambassador to Georgia," he said. "The first such move was the signing
of an agreement on gas between the Russian Federation and Georgia, and the
return of the Russian ambassador to Tbilisi is also one such move," the
Baku, Tbilisi finalise deal on railway project
Azerbaijan and Georgia are close to finalising a deal on terms of financing
construction of the Baku-Akhalkalaki-Kars railway link which will connect
Azerbaijan with Turkey via Georgia, officials said. Azerbaijani Transport
Minister, Zia Mamedov, and the head of Azerbaijani Railways, Arif Askerov, led
the Azerbaijani delegation, which met with Georgian Prime Minister Zurab
Nogaideli on January 12, the Messenger reported.
Georgian Economy Minister, Giorgi Arveladze, who was also engaged in talks said
that this was a strategic project for Georgia. Former Economy Minister, Irakli
Chogovadze, attended the negotiations as a consultant to the Georgian government
as he was engaged in previous talks while serving as the economy minister.
"I think we will have no problems and the results of talks will be known
straight away. I do not think there will be problems with financing the project
- the Azerbaijani side is ready to finance it," Mamedov said.
The project assessment report is expected to be ready in February, which will
estimate a total amount of finances needed for implementation of the project.
Reports about the total cost of the project vary from US$400 million to US$600
million. The project involves the construction of a railway link between the
Turkish town of Kars and Akhalkalaki in southern Georgia. In addition, the
rehabilitation of a portion of the railway on Georgian territory will also need
to be completed. "We want to launch construction by the end of second
quarter of 2007," the chief of the Georgian state-run Railway Company,
Irakli Ezugbaia, said, but added that rehabilitation works on 192-kilometres
portion of railway can be launched even earlier.
He said project implementation would take about two and half years. The railway
will have a capacity to transport 15 million tones of cargo annually, Ezugbaia
added. The presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey signed a joint
declaration on May 25, 2005 in Baku over the construction of the railway.
Armenia is against the Baku-Akhalkalaki-Kars railway, claiming that the project
will further isolate the landlocked country. As an alternative, Yerevan is
pushing for reopening the already existing Kars-Gyumri-Tbilisi railway.