Ivanishvili, Georgian Dream Promise to Look West

Posted October 9th, 2012 at 11:55 am (UTC-5)
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Georgian officials preparing for the nation's first peaceful transition of power since breaking away from the former Soviet Union are promising the change will not impact the country's desire to move even closer to the West.

Georgian Dream coalition leader, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose party won last week's parliamentary elections, met in Tbilisi Tuesday with President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Ivanishvili said despite stark differences in many areas, both men agree Georgia must continue to look west.

“Europe and the Euro-Atlantic space is an essence of our strategy, and there will be a continuation of the course of the previous government. We will move towards Europe, and Georgia will become a NATO member country in the nearest future.''

Many analysts have viewed the billionaire businessman as a pro-Russian politician, and Ivanishvili has said he will seek close cooperation with Russia. But just last week, he said he will make Washington his first foreign trip should he become prime minister, as expected.

In Moscow Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov remained cautiously optimistic.

“We hope the new government in Georgia, when it's formed, will pursue a course to normalize relations with all its neighbors, including Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.''

Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008 over two breakaway Georgian provinces , which Moscow recognizes as independent states.

South Ossetia Foreign Minister David Sanakoyev, meeting with Lavrov in Moscow, says his government is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“Whether we will or will not cooperate with the new government of Georgia depends fully on how they will conduct their policy. We will first of all demand that Georgia recognizes independence of the republic of South Ossetia, we will build good neighbor relationship with this country, what we always have been aimed at.''

For now, Georgia's leaders appear focused on a smooth transition — with President Saakashvili downplaying the animosity that marked the run-up to the parliamentary election.

“Despite fundamental differences and different opinions on the majority of issues, we have managed and are managing to conduct this process (transfer of power) within the framework of the law and the constitution. And I think there is one major thing which should be emphasized. I want to wish my people success — I am sure that Georgia will have a great future and we (United National Movement party) are going to be an important part of this future as citizens and politicians.”

Despite the change-over in parliament, President Saakashvili will remain Georgia's president until his term expires next year. Under changes in the constitution, many of the president's powers will then transfer to the prime minister.