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Exclusive interview with the Georgian ambassador in Bucharest, HE Levan Metreveli

May 14, 2009

foto-georgiaThe appointment of your Excellency here in Bucharest started in the aftermath of the NATO summit in Bucharest, when Georgia, against all expectations, has not received the invitation to join the Alliance. What chances has your country right now to become a NATO member, and do you believe Romania will offer a full support for achieving this goal?

So… the question whether Georgia becomes NATO member or not, sometime in the future…that was clearly stated during the Bucharest summit and the summit final document, that Georgia and Ukraine will ultimately become NATO members. Within last year, no other view has been released by NATO. As in connection to the last developments of last year war, I can say that when Georgia and Ukraine were denied MAP in Bucharest, as our president said, that was a clear message that something might be done by Russia.

So that resulted into the war of august. Our president warned the Western community that not offering in that moment the MAP to Georgia would entail very, very difficult consequences. Nobody would believe at that time that might happen, but there were all the preconditions for this. So, how realistic is membership of Georgia to the NATO now? I would say quite realistic, because the war in Georgia and the other developments proved that Georgia should be a member of the NATO community. In order to maintain security into the Black Sea region, Georgia should be inside of the lines. The august war had even stronger implications for the neighbor countries, showing that nobody is prevented from such kind of developments in the future. Security is not about one country but it is a regional matter. If in one country the part of the security medium is compromised, it will immediately have repercussions in others countries. So I think Georgia’s membership is worth for Georgia but for the allies as well. Georgia is a part of the region, is an European nation, a democratic country, so I think, in terms of character of reforms which took place during the last 4 or 5 years, Georgia gets much closer to the NATO requires and standards. So that is why am personally very optimistic.

NATO or the White House could have from now on a different approach to Georgia? The American Undersecretary of State, Matthew Bryza, stated in an interview for the Russian radio Eho Moskvî that the US will not recognize the independence of the two separatist Georgian regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but it might establish relations with both of them. It seems to be some changes into the American position…

I don’t think so. Matthew Bryza is exactly the person who has been part of the dialogue between Georgian authorities and the separatist region. I think that means the dialogue should be maintained, should be developed. The only way of solving the political problems is the dialogue. War is not in our interest. Therefore, I don’t think the new American administration has any specific shift in terms of relations with Georgia and in terms of our territorial integrity. As you said, Matthew Bryza clearly indicated that the US will not recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and this is a clear message that United States supports our territorial integrity and suzeranity. As for the communication, this is the key, so therefore I don’t see any danger, any shift in the US policy.

What about Romania? Bucharest should do some specific steps, some actions into this direction?

Romania has done many things for my country. We perceive Romania as one of the most important friends, not only in the region but also worldwide. Romania was the first country which recognized our independence, and it has been very supportive in both our NATO and European Union aspirations. Romania is still in favor of supporting Georgia towards both directions, is a key player in the region, and is a key partner for Georgia. For me, for ourselves, NATO is not only article five, but it is an instrument for developing democracy, economy, and security. I do not think there are some other channels into the NATO which should be followed by Romania or by other allies. On the other hand, our friends, our partners in NATO should have a more active dialogue and exchange of ideas about what should be done, in terms how Georgia could be helped more intensely to fulfill NATO standards.

What has changed in Georgia, after last summer war with Russia, taking into account that during this period there were changes in the dynamics of politics and security, both domestic and regional?

The war stimulated Georgians, ordinary citizens, to consolidate. There were always different opinions about the future of Georgia, political developments, domestic problems, and the opposition was quite expressive. But during the war and within that period of time in August, the nation got consolidated. Russians thought that as soon as they occupy part of the Georgian territory, the people will go against the Government or the Government will collapse. But the opposite happened. In other words, what has changed after the war in public opinion, in public perception was that our country is not alone, that we have allies who are respecting democratic values and they are supporting us in defending our democracy and our nation- this is the first thing. The second thing that had changed – all that time show there is a threat and everybody became very alert. Before there were different speculations that Russians cannot be part of the conflict, they are peacekeepers…but now it became clear. The war also showed that, despite all the calculations of Russians that the country will collapse, the local Government was working, the country was working, and even the banking system was working. Even when the Russians were not far from Tbilisi, the city was working properly. That was a good sign that the country has reached a certain degree of development and it is on the right path. The war showed the strength of our democracy, but also our weaknesses. In September, there was formed a Parliamentary Commission to investigate how the Government and institutions reacted to the war, and we have learned lot of lessons, very useful lessons.

Some days ago, there was a mutiny starting from the Muhrovani military base near Tbilisi. There is any possibility that the Georgian army will turn against the president, at a large scale?

One of the leaders of the mutiny, who used to be former military official, was actually arrested. There was a recording published when he was talking to some others organizers, and there were clear indications… They said they started the mutiny in that particularly military base, and in a certain period of time, four or five thousands Russian troops may join them from South Ossetia. First of all, it is important to say that all the leaders of the mutiny have been former military servants, who have been, in certain and different times, before or after the Rose Revolution, dismissed from the Ministry of Defense jobs, because of their connections to the foreign security services. These people were not part of the Ministry of Defense. On the other hand, the mutiny was local, in a small military base with less than 500 troops, and it was localized. At the moment the system of the Defense Ministry is stable and the investigation goes on. Therefore, I do not think that it is a kind of indication of a weakness. The public and the people, the ordinary people perceive that military man should not engage in politics. In other words, there is no tolerance towards such kind of developments, and I think that it will be the very last one that happened in Georgia, because military, in any democratic country, are free of politics. The Georgian Government and the law enforcement agencies have been quite effective strong, the conflict was localized.

President Saakashvili stated there were two possible scenarios of the mutiny – to disrupt NATO exercises on the way on the Georgian territory or to involve the whole army.

That was probably the dream of the organizers, but they lost the sense of reality. Something like that happened back in 1990-ies, when president was Eduard Shevarnadze, and exactly in the same military base. And the persons who have been the leaders had not been punished, had not been captured or sent to the Court –contrary, they were promoted, because the Government was not strong enough, not confident enough to deal with the realities of such kind of developments. But in this moment, the Government is strong and confident – therefore, all the conflict was localized, nobody suffered and all the organizers go through the legal procedures, until the Court will decide. President said nobody must have the illusion they might involve military. Under Shevarnadze’s Government, what was Georgian army? It was weak, not well nourished, not well paid, not well trained. Now, our military are well educated, well paid and they also participate in international peacekeeping operations like in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in other parts of world – there is a qualitatively new Army. I will repeat myself- it is indicative that the leadership of the mutiny had not been high level officials of the Army, but former officials who tried to regain their power and their influence. As for the scenarios- there can be different scenarios, but if you look at a large scale at what happened in August, quite something similar happened now. There was an illusion of somebody that they can collapse the country, by involving army, by bombing Georgia and people will turn against the Government. That did not happened, because at that moment, my country appeared to be totally different from what it was six years ago.

Now, that the coup was repelled, how is president Mikhail Saakashvili – is he in a weaken or in a stronger position than before – from political point of view?

It depends what you mean. Therefore, as a former medical doctor, I can not diagnose now. But what I see at the moment is there are some protests demonstrations at the oppositions, but what I see is that our president is motivated to conduct the dialogue, and it is very indicative that exactly yesterday (editor note on the 11 of may), there was a meeting, the very first meeting between the president and the radical opposition, and they all agreed that we need to have a dialogue. We need to agree on something, because the country is in a difficult situation, the Russian troops occupy almost 20% of our territory. There is an world economic crisis, which has repercussions in Georgia as well, and there is a political dispute. This country belongs to everybody, not to the president, not to the opposition, but it belongs to everybody. The country is pretty small, we have to have a dialogue and we have to agree on something. President is strong enough and willing enough to proceed with the democratic norms and standards and to keep the country away from any possible disaster. The dialogue is the only solution. He offered to the opposition five major topics for dialogue, so I believe during the next 2 or 3 weeks they will be discussed and come up with some agreement. Consequently, I think that president is in a good position to manage the country and to manage the political situation and – the most important, to achieve a consensus with the opposition, with all the parties, with the whole society in terms of the future of the country. I can state that, compared with 90-es, the Georgian society achieved a high degree of maturity, and the civil society is very strong in this moment. Therefore there are all the prerequisites to solve this political crisis, fast and peacefully and effectively.

We have an economic crisis that affect all of us- also your country and the Russian Federation. If Georgia will continue to face these economic problems, will be forced to review its position towards Moscow? There is any possibility that Georgia will accept or try to start a diallogue with the Kremlin administration, under certain conditions?

We always been in favour of a diallogue with Russia, always. Let me remind you… When the Rose Revolution happened and Mr. Saakashvili was elected president of Georgia, his very first public speech underlined that he want to communicate with Russians, to talk to them, to offer them our hand of friendship. We are in favor of the peaceful resolutions of the conflicts. We are a small nation, we can not sustain war and we do not want war, because we realise the war is not a sollution. Even now, when it is a crises between Georgia and Russia, in terms of political communication, we are still thinking of having a good, a friendly relationship with Russia. We are neighbours, we have no other way. But on the other hand, we can not tollerate that a fifth of our territory is occupied. Therefore, there can be number of preconditions for talking with Russia, but not at the expense of our terrirorial integrity – this is clear. In terms of economic crisis, of course the global crisis has its repercussions in Georgia. Of course there are problems and we still anticipate new problems to deal with, but the nature of crises is still different in Western Europe then in Georgia. Georgia has a small economy, and not many of our business are linked with the international banking system which, in a certain degree, collapsed. So, I do not think the economic crisis could be a good reason for giving up our territory. No way! But we are still ready to say that we are willing to talk to Russians, because we are neighbours and our future generations should live in a secure environment. I think the ressolution of Russian – Georgian conflict will happen sometime in the future, but with the necessary involvment of the international community.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lori permalink
    May 15, 2009 6:51 am

    Excellent interview!

  2. July 26, 2013 8:29 am

    I have read so many articles concerning the blogger lovers but this piece of writing is actually a fastidious paragraph, keep
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  1. “Războiul i-a stimulat pe georgieni” : Reporter Virtual

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