Georgia’s Kvirikashvili Addresses UN General Assembly

NEW YORK - Georgia's Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili addressed the United Nations General Assembly's 71st Session Thursday speaking about recent reforms implemented in the country, Georgia's foreign policy, upcoming October parliamentary elections and Russia's annexation policy.

Kvirikashvili forcefully reminded the Assembly that Russia currently occupies 20 per cent of Georgia territory, adding that Moscow's annexation policy has created and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people from the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; all of whom have been denied the right of return by Moscow.

Kvirikashvili also condemned the Kremlin's decision to hold elections for the Russian State Duma in Georgia's occupied territories on September 18, calling it "another part of Moscow's annexation policy."

The speech closely resembled Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's address early in the day. Poroshenko also condemned Russia's occupation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula and Moscow's invasion of the Kyiv's eastern Donbass region.

Kvirikashvili's 20-minute speech covered the majority of the country's pressing domestic and foreign policy issues, but he has harshly criticized by Georgia's opposition political parties.

The United National Movement (UNM), the main opposition party of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, said Kvirikashvili should have drawn more attention to Russia's occupation and murder of Giga Otkhozoria, a Georgian citizen who was killed by a pro-Russian border guard in May at a checkpoint with the Moscow-backed separatist region Abkhazia.

 "When you are speaking before the international community about all of the problems in the occupied territories and insist that progress has been made ... that means you are saying that there are no real problems. This is just another example of their incompetence and ignorance, "UNM member Giga Bokeria said.

Kvirikashvili also spoke about the Georgian government's moves to overhaul the judiciary and court systems as well as civil rights in the small South Caucasus nation.

"Past human rights violations, particularly egregious infractions in the prisons, have finally come to an end since the Georgian Dream (GD) came into power."

The UNM shot back at Kvirikashvili's comments regarding past human rights abuses, saying he should have focused on plans that he and the ruling Georgian Dream have for the country instead of dwelling on past events.

"We know that the government is putting pressure on the Constitutional Court ... Speaking about improvements in judiciary system will only bring a reverse effect," UNM member Elene Khoshtaria said.

Former Defense Minister Irakli Alasania's Free Democrats also share the UNM's position. The party said Georgia's judicial system is in shambles, with the number of politically motivated cases and instances involving petty corruption returning to levels not seen since before 2003's pro-democracy Rose Revolution overthrew the endemically corrupt, authoritarian government of former President Eduard Shevardnadze.

Opera-singer-turned-politician, Paata Burchuladze's State for the People Movement said Kvirikashvili's statements sounded like cheap campaign slogans rather than an address by a head of state to the United Nations General Assembly.

The Georgian Dream team responded to the criticism by saying the Kvirikashvili's speech accurately focused on Georgia's progress.

"The PM's speech did not contain campaign messages. He simply described the reality that exists in the country today," GD member Gia Volsky said.

"Regarding the actual implementation of reforms ... the government is completely detached from reality," State for the People member Giorgi Vashadze said.

By Thea Morrison

Edited by Nicholas Waller


23 September 2016 18:44