Georgian PM Reshuffles Cabinet with New Defense, Reconciliation Ministers

TBILISI - Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced Monday the appointment of the Deputy Minister for Reconciliation Ketevan Tsikhelashvili and Deputy Chief State Security Service Chief Levan Izoria as the country’s new Reconcillation and Defense ministers.

The positions became vacant after former Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli and ex-Reconciliation and Civil Affairs Minister Paata Zakareishvili officially left their posts on August 1 after announcing their resignations on July 12.

Both former ministers said they had opted to step down to assist the Republican Party in their preparations for the parliamentary elections in October.

The Republican Party announced in late March that it would break away from the ruling Georgian Dream coalition and run separately in the elections.

Tsikhelashvili is considered by members of the government to be an expert in international relations and is actively involved in the International Geneva Talks and a regular lecturer at Tbilisi’s Ilia State University’s Center for European Studies.

Izoria is a law professor and former deputy interior minister educated in Germany.

“We will continue our policy towards Russia and seek de-occupation, as well as continue direct dialogue with the people of Abkhazia and Ossetia,” Tsikhelashvili said.

In his introductory speech, Izoria said the key issues facing his term in office would be Euro-Atlantic Integration and defense ministry reforms.

A third Republican Party cabinet member – Environmental Protection Minister Gigla Agulashvili – decided to quit the party and remain in the government.

Zakareishvili had been the minister since the Georgian Dream coalition came into government after the October 2012 parliamentary elections.

After officially resigning, Khidasheli – the first woman to hold the position – arrived at the ministry to say goodbye to her colleges.

She released a letter that thanked the armed forces their work and vowed to be “a great friend, lobbyist and staunch supporter of Georgia’s armed forces.”

Khidasheli’s one-year term was marked by several notable milestones for the defense ministry. The launch of the NATO-led Noble Partner trainings with Georgian troops and the opening of the NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Centre (JTEC) were particular high water marks for Khidasheli.

Just before leaving her post, Khidasheli also abolished compulsory military service.

By Thea Morrison

01 August 2016 18:32