Salome Zurabishvili, a former Georgian foreign minister and current opposition leader, walked out of a meeting with NATO's envoy to the South Caucasus, Robert Simmons, today.
Our Georgian Service
says she told journalists that she had left to protest NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's failure to meet with Georgian opposition leaders.
"After they signed a document yesterday where there is so much talk of the necessity of democratic reforms in Georgia, I see it as a problem that the secretary-general couldn't find even 30 minutes to meet with the opposition leaders," Zurabishvili told RFE/RL.
"Because it means that at NATO they don't really understand what kinds of problems Georgia is facing right now."
The ambassadors of Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Portugal, Belgium, Norway, and Bulgaria, or seven of the 26 ambassadors at the conference, attended the meeting.
Zurabishvili said that she had the impression that the Georgian authorities had intentionally scheduled other meetings for several NATO ambassadors -- those from France, Britain, and the United States, among others -- in order to preempt the meeting with the opposition.
De Hoop Scheffer and the North Atlantic Council have reportedly tried hard recently to impress the importance of Georgian democracy to NATO and the West.
Snubbing the opposition in Tbilisi -- not once but twice, since de Hoop Scheffer didn't take time out for them during his last visit in October either -- can only feed cynical dismissals of those assurances.
-- Niko Nergadze