US Secretary of State begins meetings in Georgia, criticized for refusing to meet with opposition
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Georgia and has begun official meetings with government officials.
He has been criticized for the fact that his agenda does not include meetings with the opposition, despite a huge protest movement in Tbilisi with allegations of falsified parliamentary elections.
He was officially greeted at the airport in Tbilisi on the evening of November 17 by Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaniani, Georgian Ambassador to the United States David Bakradze and US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan.
An unofficial ‘delegation’ also met at Pompeo airport. Representatives of the Georgian Labor Party stood there with banners “Welcome to a country where the elections were rigged by an oligarch.”
They told reporters that in their opinion, this message should be the first that the US Secretary of State sees when he arrives in Georgia.
The US State Department said in a statement that the purpose of the visit is “to express support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to call for further progress in democratic reforms.”
- Georgian street protests, negotiations running simultaneously. Photo report
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Pompeo is scheduled to meet with the top leaders of Georgia (president, prime minister and minister of foreign affairs), with Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II and with several representatives of non-governmental organizations.
Despite ongoing protests in Georgia since the parliamentary elections on October 31 which the opposition claims were falsified, Pompeo’s agenda does not include meeting with the opposition.
Former US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly criticized Pompeo’s refusal to meet with the leaders of the Georgian opposition, who tweeted:
“Pompeo is in Georgia, another country where election results are contested, he only meets with the government, this is a mistake.”
The Georgian opposition announced on November 18 a “demonstration of silence”. Supporters were invited to come to Rustaveli Avenue, where everyone will be given stickers with the words “Lies” and flags of Georgia and the United States.
Protesters have been invited to line up in a chain from the building of the Opera House towards Republic Square, Rustaveli Metro, Philharmonic Society and Melikishvili Street.
“Large banners with Georgian and American flags will be displayed on Republic Square, informing that the elections were rigged and the country is being seized by a Russian oligarch,” said Gigi Ugulava, one of the leaders of the opposition party European Georgia.
Mike Pompeo will visit a total of seven countries November 13-23, arriving in Tbilisi after France and Turkey, and then heading to Israel.
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The Georgian opposition has three main requirements for the authorities:
- Repeat parliamentary elections be conducted
- Tamar Zhvania, head of the Central Election Commission, resign and the composition of election commissions be fairly organized
- Political prisoners be released.