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Margvelashvili Sworn In As Georgia's New President

  • RFE/RL's Georgian Service

Newly elected President Giorgi Margvelashvili takes the oath during his inauguration ceremony in Tbilisi on November 17.

Newly elected President Giorgi Margvelashvili takes the oath during his inauguration ceremony in Tbilisi on November 17.

Giorgi Margvelashvili has been sworn in as the new president of Georgia during a ceremony in Tbilisi.

Margvelashvili, a close ally of ruling Georgian Dream coalition leader and outgoing Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, won a landslide in the country's October presidential election.

The low-key inauguration, attended by over 50 foreign delegations, was held at the courtyard of the old parliament building in Tbilisi.

The 44-year-old philosopher and former university rector will serve a five-year term.

During his inauguration ceremony, Margvelashvili promised to press on with plans to join the European Union and NATO, key ambitions of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, while also working to reduce tensions with Russia.

"Despite the difficult situation we are facing today and in parallel with integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, we reiterate our commitment to further dialogue with Russia and building confidence to solve the problems that exist today," Margvelashvili said.

"This dialogue will be built upon unequivocal respect for Georgia’s national interests, i.e. respect for our internationally recognized borders and the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty."

Reaching Out To Abkhazia, South Ossetia

Margvelashvili also sent a message to people in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the two breakaway regions of Georgia that Russia formally recognized as independent states following the five-day Georgian-Russian War in 2008.

"Our offer to our compatriots living in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region is as follows: let us build a successful democratic country together, a country that will guarantee the welfare of all citizens, preservation of their ethnic and cultural identity, and respect for their political rights," he said.

"As president of Georgia, the ruling party and I assume responsibility for implementing this policy."

Margvelashvili's inauguration brings to an end the nearly decade-long presidency of the pro-Western Saakashvili.

According to Georgian law, as soon as Margvelashvili is sworn in on November 17, the current government must resign and a new one elected by parliament.

However, the Georgian Dream coalition is expected to remain in power since it holds a majority in parliament.

On the eve of the inauguration, the United States paid tribute to Georgia's outgoing leaders and called on those coming to power to "work together."

Saakashvili refused to attend the November 17 ceremony, citing the criminal prosecution of several of his former ministers and members of his party.

Ivanishvili has labeled Saakashvili a "political corpse" and warned that he could face prosecution.

Saakashvili has said he will not leave Georgia.

With reporting by AP, Interfax, and AFP