Prague, 16 November 2005 (RFE/RL) --Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze today convened an emergency press briefing to explain her decision to boycott the CIS parliamentary summit.
She said she had decided to cancel her trip to St. Petersburg after the Russian Consulate in Tbilisi allegedly refused to grant Givi Targamadze -- the chairman of the Georgian parliament's Defense and Security Committee -- an entry visa.
"I found it utterly cynical that just as I was entering this [press] room, the head of the parliament's department for international affairs informed me that -- now that our airplane had taken off -- the Russian side is no longer against [Givi Targamadze's] visit," Burjanadze said. "I think this is just cynical because everyone knew we could not possibly take part in the summit."
Burjanadze went on to warn that Georgia might take retaliatory measures against Russia.
"If Russia has a so-called 'blacklist' of Georgian politicians, we will of course take appropriate measures and a many people may find themselves on a list of people who cannot be granted entry visas to Georgia," Burjanadze said.
"If Russia has a so-called 'blacklist' of Georgian politicians, we will of course take appropriate measures and a many people may find themselves on a list of people who cannot be granted entry visas to Georgia." -- Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze
The Russian Embassy in Tbilisi today released a statement saying its consular services had initially refused Targamadze an entry visa, but had later reconsidered its position. The embassy further described Burjanadze's explanations for refusing to attend the CIS parliamentary summit as a mere pretext, suggesting that "other reasons" may have prompted her decision.
Targamadze, who is a close ally of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, is an outspoken critic of Moscow's policy in the Southern Caucasus.
Addressing reporters today, Targamadze claimed Russia had denied him an entry visa in retaliation to his criticism.
"I can only tell what the Russian Embassy unofficially said. I was told that I am on a sort of 'blacklist' because of my statements regarding Russia," Targamadze said. "I can say that I stand by every single statement I've made on Russia. I am ready to repeat any one of them at any time. I do not think that any one of these statements was an insult to the Russian state."
Burjanadze and Targamadze were initially due to present in St. Petersburg Saakashvili's latest peace initiatives on South Ossetia.
The plan, which Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli unveiled last month before the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, envisages granting South Ossetia broad autonomy within Georgia.
It also calls for an immediate demilitarization of the conflict zone and envisions a greater involvement by the international community -- including the United States and the European Union -- in the peace process.
Burjanadze today claimed that Russia's alleged refusal to grant Targamadze an entry visa affects Georgia's peace initiative.
"On my personal initiative, we were going to present the Georgian president's peace plan regarding South Ossetia," Burjanadze said. "We were going to urge other CIS member states -- including Russia -- to take an active part in the implementation of this plan. But, unfortunately, we were not allowed to do so."
The United States has expressed support to Saakashvili's peace proposals. But Russia and South Ossetia have rejected the plan, claiming it aims at sidelining them.
Addressing reporters in Tskhinvali today, South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity cautioned Georgia against drawing its U.S. ally into the peace process.
"If there are questions that need to be discussed, we know better [than anyone else how they should be discussed]," Kokoity said. "If the Georgian side has new proposals, it should discuss them with South Ossetia, not with America, Australia, or any other country. We live here and I have no doubt we will continue to live here in peace and prosperity. All attempts at solving South Ossetia's problems without South Ossetia will, of course, end up in a deadlock."
Georgia accuses Moscow of secretly arming Tskhinvali and claims Russian peacekeepers deployed in the conflict zone since 1992 are condoning the activities of alleged South Ossetian-based criminal gangs. Russia rejects the charge and, in turn, accuses Georgia of seeking to forcibly end South Ossetia's 13 years of de facto independence.
- Georgia accuses Moscow of secretly arming Tskhinvali and claims Russian peacekeepers are condoning the activities of alleged South Ossetian-based criminal gangs.
- Russia accuses Georgia of seeking to forcibly end South Ossetia's 13 years of de facto independence.
Tension has been growing over South Ossetia since Georgia unveiled its new peace plan.
Yesterday, Georgian-South Ossetian peace talks resumed outside Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, under the aegis of Dimitrij Rupel, the OSCE chairman in office.
Addressing the meeting that day, South Ossetia's chief negotiator, Boris Chochiev, accused Georgia of obstructing a proposed meeting between Kokoity and Noghaideli.
"The Kokoity-Noghaideli meeting has been more than once on the agenda," Chochiev said. "It has been discussed more than once and no one was against the idea, including our president. However, we have the impression that the Georgian side is not fully interested in having such a meeting."
Georgian Conflict Resolution Minister Giorgi Khaindrava, who represents his country at the talks, denied the charge. Today, he in turn accused South Ossetia and Russia of torpedoing the peace process.
The Georgian minister today demonstratively walked out of the meeting in Slovenia, accusing South Ossetia's representatives of refusing to let him present Saakashvili's peace plan. He eventually went back to the negotiation table after obtaining assurances that he would be allowed to detail the proposals in the presence of reporters.
Speaking by telephone to RFE/RL's Georgian Service afterward, Khaindrava called once again for structural changes into the Joint Control Commission (JCC) that oversees the peace talks.
The JCC is made up of Georgia, South Ossetia, Russia, and North Ossetia -- which all have peacekeepers in the conflict zone.
"It has long been clear to us that nearly all proposals made by the Georgian side are regularly being blocked at the JCC meetings," Khaindrava said. "This is precisely why we are saying that the format of these meetings should be changed. Today's incident in Ljubljana has once again shown how helpless the JCC is [in its current format], because three sides are actually representing one side, even though they have three voices."
Khaindrava also reportedly rejected a proposal by Moscow's envoy Valerii Kenyaikin that the presidents of Russia, Georgia, and South Ossetia meet in a bid to end the current deadlock.
Earlier today, Saakashvili's office released a statement saying the Georgian president had invited his Russian counterpart to visit Tbilisi at an undisclosed date.
The statement said Saakashvili and Putin had a telephone conversation late last night, during which they discussed economic cooperation and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia. But it made no mention of South Ossetia.