BY EYNULLA FATULLAYEV
Echoes of a high-profile Georgian political scandal reached Azerbaijan and Turkey. The favourite of the upcoming presidential election in Georgia, Frenchwoman Salome Zurabishvili, at a meeting with the Armenian population in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, made a fatal mistake in terms of the strategic partnership of Georgia with Azerbaijan and Turkey. Addressing the Armenians in a potentially separatist region, Zurabishvili rashly stated with ostentatious regret: 'Until now, granting of citizenship was in the competence of the president. One of the presidents distributed a lot of dual citizenship to the Turks, but he did not give it to you.'
However, the main contender for the highest post in Georgia did not stop at that, and at the second meeting in the regional centre of Javakheti - Akhalts'ikhe continued her far-reaching thought: 'At one time the president - I do not even want to give his name - distributed citizenship to some Turks who came to Batumi, but in no way previously had any ties with Georgia.'
Even if Zurabishvili succeeds in winning the upcoming election, and the support of the ruling coalition 'Georgian Dream' greatly enhances her chances, the powerless president is unlikely to somehow change the foreign policy priorities of the country: Georgia has moved to parliamentary government, and the powers of the president are limited only with representative functions. Nevertheless, the ruling circles of Azerbaijan and Turkey are alarmed by the fact that Zurabishvili co-opted efforts with the ruling party of Ivanishvili and consolidation of these two political forces, especially since some members of the 'Georgian Dream' in unison with the presidential candidate called for the restoration of the civil rights of the separatist region.
Does Zurabishvili express the mindset of the whole 'Georgian Dream'? After all, this party controls both the executive and legislative branches of power!
Essence of the question
Salome Zurabishvili, granddaughter and political heiress of one of the leaders of the first Georgian republic, Ivane Zurabishvili, most blatantly interprets the fair decision of the president, whose name she did not want to mention in her speeches, the president, who restored the rights of the turkified Georgians who after Georgia’s sovietisation turned out by the will of history in the north-eastern part of modern Turkey.
Yes, Mikheil Saakashvili was the one who restored historical justice, and the analogy with the mass refusal of Georgian Armenians from the citizenship of Georgia is more than irrelevant. What is the main problem of Javakheti? The Armenian population of this region of Georgia, expressing separatist aspirations, and over the years increasingly advocating the implementation of the 'Karabakh scenario' - secession from Georgia and joining Armenia - has been massively accepting Armenian citizenship since 2000 under the pretext of social motives. Back in 2000, at one of the culminating moments of the Georgian-Russian confrontation, the Kremlin introduced a visa regime with Georgia, and in 2008, after the August war, the parties completely broke off diplomatic relations. In Georgia, there is no law on dual citizenship, and the Armenians of Javakheti, speculating on social tensions and economic problems, began to get Armenian citizenship and leave for work in Russia. Thus, since 2011, about 80% of the Armenian population have automatically lost their Georgian citizenship.
And immediately after the upcoming presidential election in Georgia, the new Constitution will come into force and new amendments to the law on citizenship will be approved, according to which the procedure for restoration of citizenship is greatly simplified. So, the Armenian population of Javakheti is counting on these amendments, which actually legalise dual citizenship, to regain the citizenship of Georgia.
Doesn't the experienced 66-year-old diplomat, Zurabishvili, who went through the school of European diplomacy, entering the leadership in different periods with the diplomatic missions of France to the United States, NATO and the European Union, and who during the presidency of Saakashvili headed the Foreign Ministry of Georgia, realise the perniciousness of the political consequences of her irresponsible appeal? Doesn't she understand that she insults human dignity of the Turks, and ethnic Georgians for that matter, by contrasting Javakh Armenians with citizens of Turkey, to whom the separatist community does not hide historical claims?
Of course, she understands. After all, this is not the first scandalous statement of Zurabishvili, who threw a glove in the face of her president and associate.
Zurabishvili went against her people
What to expect from the Georgian politician, who accused the air force of her own country of the bombing of the village of Tsitelubani during the August war? Awkward - difficult to call her otherwise - Salome accused Saakashvili of having bombed his own Georgian village during the Russian-Georgian war and in general undermined the territorial integrity of the country. Moreover, she did not stop with rhetorical statements, but appealed to the Hague Tribunal with accusations against Saakashvili.
'Zurabishvili is the main huckster of Georgia, the 'hemp queen' said a lot that she was not a traitor. Then let her apologise for accusing Georgian Air Force of bombing Tsitelubani, let her apologise and reject the phrase 'We bombed our own population and how do we demand territorial integrity?' Let her withdraw her candidacy in the presidential election.' About a month ago, such an angry statement was made by the former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, whose name Zurabishvili does not even want to mention now.
Leading opposition leaders also spoke in unison with Saakashvili. The ex-speaker, presidential candidate David Bakradze was no less categorical: 'Such statements by Zurabishvili pose a great danger and a claim for the wrong political form. If Salome Zurabishvili listens well to what the people say, which she never does, then she will understand that the problem is in the government, not in the president.' Nika Melia, one of the leaders of the 'United National Movement,' is even more intransigent and categorical: 'Zurabishvili is the enemy of Georgia.' The overwhelming majority of human rights defenders and the opposition accused Zurabishvili of xenophobia and populism...
Tbilisi turns weapons against Baku
Zurabishivili’s statement, followed by inflammatory remarks from the ruling party’s deputies lined up in one long chain of unfriendly political actions against Azerbaijan.
During the rule of 'Georgian Dream,' official Tbilisi seemed to set out to create a kind of anti-Azerbaijani bridgehead. As we have repeatedly written, the majority of radical half-underground Azerbaijani opposition NGOs and media, which continue unabashed aggressive propaganda against official Baku, have found refuge in Georgia. It was in Tbilisi that a multi-level non-governmental network affiliated with the notorious inspirer for colour revolutions, Soros, or the liberal funds with Obama's seal, was created, which continues to secretly fund banned semi-legal political organisations in Baku itself, openly advocating for the idea of forcibly overthrowing the current Azerbaijani government. Recall that the high-profile political affairs of the preachers of political extremism and terror directed against the Azerbaijani government - frontist Gozel Bayramli, liaison Afgan Mukhtarli, illegal activist Farman Jeyranov, extremist Vidadi Isgandarli, as well as a structured propaganda network, including opposition Meydan TV, Düşün TV (which belongs to another political extremist and separatist, Azer Kazimzade), embodying an uncompromising fight against official Baku and calling for bloody resistance in Azerbaijan, take their origins from Tbilisi. It seems that it is Tbilisi that acts as an outpost of the ideological struggle and organisational resistance against the current Azerbaijani authorities.
Despite repeated appeals by the government of Azerbaijan, the Georgian authorities are still showing suspicious tolerance towards opposition émigrés, who have found shelter in Tbilisi, and are not stopping the blatantly subversive activities of the thriving anti-Azerbaijan emigration underground. It is very strange, but during the rule of the leader of the so-called post-Soviet geopolitical revolution of the westerner Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian authorities, displaying loyalty to the political union with Azerbaijan, did not allow any manifestations of extremism and hostility against official Baku. Saakashvili, rejecting his socio-political views and philosophical values, in foreign policy proceeded not only from the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of another state and a special respectful attitude, but also made every effort to form a geopolitical axis with Baku and Ankara.
Saakashvili’s rule was remembered by the prosperity of fraternal and allied relations between the two countries, laid the foundation for the implementation of major geo-economic projects (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, etc.) with Azerbaijan and Turkey, which changed the face of the region, transport and communication structure, system of regional security...
For some reason, official Baku still discreetly looks at the unacceptable loyalty of official Tbilisi to political forces that threaten the foundations of Azerbaijan’s national security. After all, the ruling coalition of Georgia seems to be laying the foundation for a new, unfavourable system of relations with Azerbaijan. And the government of Azerbaijan must accept the challenge.
Why shouldn't our government respond with a symmetrical blow and allow Saakashvili’s supporters to create in Azerbaijan their efficient and structured institutions? Maybe we should adopt the 'liberalism' of the 'Georgian Dream' and create a base of resistance for Saakashvili in Azerbaijan, right on the Azerbaijani-Georgian border? Fortunately, the Georgian opposition in Baku will have no problems with financing and free conditions for extensive activities. It is even scary to imagine how in this case Saakashvili and his supporters will succeed in shaking up the situation in Georgia. And the political situation in the neighbouring country can be fully assessed as, to put it mildly, explosive.
In addition, official Baku should take a closer look at the new leader of the Georgian resistance, Grigol Vashadze, another favourite of the upcoming election. The former Georgian foreign minister, who, unlike Zurabishvili, has passed a somewhat different school of diplomacy at the USSR Foreign Ministry, has recently emerged as the leader of the Georgian opposition, leading the 'Strength in Unity' coalition.
Vashadze expresses the mindset of the majority of Georgian society, convincing his people that after a change of power occurred in Georgia in 2012, everyone believed in the prospect of a new democratic and economic progress. 'But instead, Georgia returned in the 1990s. Crime and poverty are growing in the country, and more and more people are leaving their historical homeland forever.' Whether Vashadze is right is for the Georgian people to judge, who will elect their president in a matter of weeks.
But if the Georgian government is eager to maintain the current level of relations with Azerbaijan, it is obliged to revise many of its principles, since maintaining friendly relations between the two states should concern Georgia no less, and maybe more than Azerbaijan. And for this, the Georgian government needs to put up much more effort...