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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI497 2008-03-21 13:45 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0497/01 0811345
R 211345Z MAR 08

E.O. 12958: N/A 
1. This cable contains current items of political, 
economic, and social interest concerning Georgia during the 
weeks of March 8-21. 
Okruashvili Asserts Control of Shrinking Party 
--------------------------------------------- - 
2. On March 15, the political party United Georgia elected its most 
prominent founder, former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, to 
the post of chair of the party in absentia.  Former party chair Gia 
Tortladze and former party secretary Gia Tsagareishvili, both MPs, 
formally left the party March 15.  These are not the first 
defections from the party this month.  On March 4, MP Keti 
Makharashvili announced that she was quitting the party and would no 
longer remain in politics.  On March 11, a group of young members of 
the party held a news conference in the offices of the ruling 
National Movement and announced that they were leaving Okruashvili's 
party to join the ruling party.  These young party members said they 
objected to the opposition's tactics of street protests and tents. 
Okruashvili, who is currently in France fighting extradition to 
Georgia on corruption charges, gave an interview to Rustavi 2 
television March 20, in which he strongly criticized both the 
government and the opposition for their tactics in ongoing 
negotiations, and spoke favorably about a possible election boycott. 
Christian Democrats Plot Party's Course 
3. On March 11, Poloffs met with Giorgi Rukhadze, the head of the 
international division of the newly established Christian Democratic 
Movement, which is led by former Imedi TV anchor Giorgi Targamadze. 
Rukhadze said the Christian Democrats are a center-right party based 
on Christian ethics and traditional moral values, but also strongly 
support separation of church and state.  The party sees Christian 
Democratic parties in Germany and Poland as models.  Financially, 
the party hopes to rely on small and medium-size businesses and 
foreign supporters.  The party supports reduction of poverty, a free 
market economy, development of agriculture, membership in NATO, and 
social dialogue between all classes of the population.  Rukhadze 
said the party currently has approximately 5,000 members all over 
Georgia.  Rukhadze said the party has not decided yet whether it 
will participate in elections alone or in a block with other 
Women's Party Established 
4. MP Guguli Maghradze (who left the ruling United National Movement 
in November) founded a new political party, the Georgian Women's 
Party, on March 12.  The new party describes itself as center-right 
and will focus primarily on supporting women's active involvement in 
politics.  Maghradze says the party plans to cooperate with all 
political forces for whom the principles of equality and justice are 
important.  She said the party would consider running in the 
parliamentary election in May, but she did not indicate if it would 
run together with other parties.  Perhaps suggesting a likely 
alliance, Nikoloz Liluashvili, the political secretary of the 
newly-formed opposition Christian Democratic Movement, congratulated 
Maghradze at the event in which she announced the new party. 
Former Patarkatsishvili Supporters Form New Parties 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
5. Gocha Jojua, who headed the late Badri Patarkatsishvili's 
presidential campaign, officially launched a new political party 
called Our Georgia on March 14, with the stated goal of creating a 
state based on justice and "removing Saakashvili from power."  Jojua 
said that while the party currently has no financial backing, it 
would try to keep the identity of any future donors secret to 
protect them from retribution by Saakashvili.  Another political 
party which emerged from Patarkatsishvili's campaign team is the 
Democratic Party of United Georgia, which was established on March 
19.  Gia Shervashidze, former commander of interior forces, is the 
chairman of the party and Davit Shukakidze, who headed 
Patarkatsishvili's election headquarters, is the secretary general. 
Shukakidze said that the party would have a center-right 
Georgia-Russia Flights Reportedly to Resume Soon 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
6. Russian aviation authorities have informed the Georgian side of 
their agreement to resume air traffic between Russia and Georgia on 
March 25, on the basis of accords between aviation authorities of 
the two countries.  Air traffic between Russia and Georgia stopped 
in October 2006 as a part of Russia's economic sanctions against 
Georgia.  Moscow had previously told Tbilisi that the resumption of 
air traffic required the payment of Georgian airlines' debts for the 
services of Russian air traffic controllers.  Georgia's biggest 
airline, Georgian Airways, has already paid USD 2 million for air 
navigation services to Russia.  The rest of the debt, which i
s about 
USD 1.7 million, will be paid gradually by other air companies until 
the end of 2008 in line with a schedule agreed upon with Russia.  A 
separate outstanding issue is an alleged debt to Rosaeronavigatsia, 
accumulated in the early 1990s by Georgian companies that later went 
bankrupt.  Georgian Airways denies it has any obligation to pay the 
Roseaeronavigatsia debt. 
TBILISI 00000497  002 OF 002 
Georgia Attracts Arab Investors 
7. A billionaire Saudi prince, Alwaleed bin Talal Alsaud, listed as 
number thirteen in Forbes 2007 rankings of the world's richest 
people, arrived March 14 on a visit to study Georgia as a potential 
location for investment.  He met with high-ranking Georgian 
officials and traveled to several regions, including Adjara, where 
President Saakashvili personally familiarized him with investment 
opportunities.  Two other groups from the Arabian peninsula have 
already demonstrated their confidence in Georgia's economy.  Arabian 
Rakeen, established in the UAE in 2006, is implementing the 
ambitious Uptown Tbilisi project in Dighomi, on the outskirts of 
Tbilisi close to the U.S. Embassy.  The project envisages a USD 630 
million investment for an 80,000 square meter development, including 
a premium residential area and commercial and entertainment centers. 
 Another project of the company is a complex in Tabakhmela (Tbilisi 
suburb), designed by the American company TAA, that includes 
residential villas, a medical clinic, tennis courts, a golf course, 
and a school.  Another UAE company, Dhabi Group, has acquired 
Standard Bank, previously owned by Badri Patarkatsishvili, and 
intends to acquire controlling stock in the Kempinski Hotel 
construction project in Tbilisi from Swiss investment company 
Capital Vostok. 
Romanian Senate Chairman Visits Georgia 
8. During a four-day visit, Chairman of the Romanian Senate Nicolae 
Vacaroiu met Parliament Speaker Burjanadze, Prime Minister 
Gurgenidze, Finance Minister Gilauri and other senior officials.  On 
March 17 Burjanadze and Vacaroiu discussed economic cooperation and 
the importance of Romania's support for Georgia's NATO integration, 
including at the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest.  Burjanadze 
asked Vacaroiu to provide Romanian observers for Georgia's upcoming 
parliamentary elections. 
Government Hosts Human Rights Forum 
9. On March 15, the Georgian government held a Human Rights forum at 
a resort on Georgia's Bazuleti Lake.  NGO representatives dealing 
with prisons, juvenile justice, minority rights, and domestic 
violence were invited.  The Minister of Justice, the Prosecutor 
General, representatives from the penitentiary system, and the 
Public Defender participated in the meeting, which was chaired by 
Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Eka Zguladze.  A representative 
from UNICEF made a presentation on the current situation of juvenile 
justice in Georgia and future plans to address deficiencies. 
Government representative made opening remarks and fielded questions 
from NGO representatives throughout the daylong session.  According 
to the Public Defender's office, this is the first time the 
government has organized such an event since 2003. 


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