Nino Burjanadze, leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia, left on a visit to Moscow on March 3. She is the second opposition politician to visit Moscow, following in the footsteps of leader of the Movement for Fair Georgia Zurab Noghaideli, and the visit has already caused controversy.
“At present Georgia is in international isolation. The Russian Government refuses to talk directly to the Georgian Government while the international community, including the strategic partners of Georgia, is collaborating with Russia. Nearly 20% of Georgian territory is not controlled by Georgians and the present Government of the country has no strategy for how to reintegrate those territories. The Government has just accepted this situation and is trying to make the population do so too,” Burjanadze said.
The leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia added that while Russia and Western countries are establishing new relations and the so-called reset policy between Russia and the United States has begun the restoration of relations with Russia has great importance for the country’s future. "I am occupied with big politics while others are occupied with the Mayoral elections and the authorities are occupied with conducting black PR against the opposition. As the solution of Georgia's main problems is possible only through peaceful means, political dialogue with Russia is of vital importance for the unity of our country. That’s why I am leaving for Moscow. Later I will hold meetings in Brussels and other capitals of Europe and the USA,” Burjanadze stated.
Zurab Noghaideli, the other opposition leader to start a dialogue with Moscow, has said that Burjanadze's visit is extremely significant for the prospects of achieving the country’s reunification. "Not only opposition representatives but Government members should be involved in this process. Each leader should try to improve relations with Russia. I welcome Nino Burjanadze’s decision and her statement before leaving, as she did not mention any precondition for starting negotiations,” Noghaideli said. The Conservative and People’s parties share this view, with the Conservatives underlining that this is a very serious and significant decision and a very brave step. However the rest of the non-Parliamentary opposition have expressed concern. "I hope that Georgian society will not see such clumsy charades as we have seen with Noghaideli. It is very regrettable that there are politicians in Georgia who do not feel discomfited at being photographed in Vladimir Putin’s study,” Tina Khidasheli, from the Republicans, stated. "I hope that Noghaideli will be the only collaborating with The Kremlin at the present moment,” Pikria Chikhradze of the New Rights said. Gubaz Sanikidze, leader of the National Forum, said that the main precondition for those politicians starting negotiations with the Russian Government, should be the de-occupation of the occupied territories.
The Parliamentary opposition have said that they can see nothing bad in this decision if negotiations are launched regarding Georgia's territorial integrity. "If Georgian politicians negotiate with Russian forces to restore our borders I see nothing unacceptable in this. Our party is expecting a visit in the near future from the Russian Christian Democrats, who recognise Georgia’s territorial integrity,” Giorgi Targamadze, leader of the Christian Democratic Movement, said. MP Goka Gabashvili from the ruling National Movement has said however, "I was sure that Nino Burjanadze would continue Noghaideli’s way. Such people are against the country’s interests.”
Analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze has told The Messenger that talking to Moscow should not be considered treason. "I think that even Noghaideli’s step should not have been considered a betrayal, in spite of the fact he has signed some documents. This closed door should be opened and somebody should be the first to do it. As the present Government is not doing anything in this respect, the opposition has decided to,” Sakvarelidze stated. Asked how the opposition can realistically improve relations with Russia when they have no real levers to do so, Sakvarelidze said that the most important thing is to know the motivation and plan of the country occupying your territory, and it is unlikely that Georgia will get to know these things without such talks.