But, in the question-and-answer session that followed the presentation at RFE/RL's Prague broadcasting center, the focus shifted to international relations and Georgia's foreign policy -- in particular, the status of Kosovo.
Noghaideli was asked about the Georgian government's position on the possibility of applying the Kosovo precedent to Georgia's frozen conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"I strongly believe that there is no possibility, no way, to draw these parallels [between Kosovo and Georgia's Abkhazia and South Ossetia] and to repeat this precedent," Noghaideli said. "And I have no doubt that Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's conflicts are going to be resolved peacefully, in the framework of the territorial integrity of Georgia."
Reciprocal Gestures Needed
He also rejected a suggestion that the Georgian government sign a formal memorandum of nonresumption of hostilities with Abkhazia and South Ossetia as a confidence-building measure. He said the nonuse of force can only be part of a "bigger document" that contains reciprocal gestures from all sides, including demilitarization.
"We are not just simply going to sit down and negotiate the nonuse of force only," he said. "This should be part of how ethnic Georgians, for instance, who have returned back to the Gali region [of Abkhazia] will be treated -- how basic human rights are either respected or not in the Gali region."
He said ethnic Georgians should not be "treated like animals," as he said is often the case in Gali.
"We are not going to be in a situation that we are signing some document, we are sending some signals," he said, "and at the same time people are continuing to threaten other people on an ethnic basis in the two regions we have mentioned."
A physicist by training, Noghaideli joined the government of President Eduard Shevardnadze in 2000 as finance minister. He was subsequently fired, but soon after the Georgia's 2003 Rose Revolution he was reappointed to the post.
In 2005, after the accidental death of Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, one of the leaders of the Rose Revolution, Noghaideli was appointed prime minister.
Need To Consider The Displaced
Speaking today about the future status of Abkhazia, Noghaideli said the issue cannot be resolved without the participation of the Georgian population, most of whom left Abkhazia during the war:
"The future of Abkhazia could only be decided by the whole prewar population of Abkhazia, not only by those who have managed to ethnically cleanse the region and are claiming independence right now," he said.
Noghaideli accused the pro-Moscow separatist regime in Abkhazia of ethnically cleansing the region and declaring independence.
Georgia's complex relations with Russia was another topic covered at the meeting.
"As you know, it has been tense recently, but at the same time it is encouraging [that] a meeting has taken place just two days ago between Presidents [Mikheil] Saakashvili and [Vladimir] Putin," Noghaideli said. "We hope that it will be filled with practical decisions; or, at least the decisions taken at the end of last year will be reverted, and we will move towards normal relations between the countries."
Relations hit a low in fall 2006 after Russia expelled ethnic Georgians and boycotted Georgian products following a spy row between the two countries.
'The Choice Of The Georgian People'
Since becoming president, Saakashvili has followed a pro-Western course in foreign policy.
But Georgia's pro-Western orientation has "nothing to do with Russia," Noghaideli said. He said the country's aspirations of joining the EU and NATO are "the choice of the Georgian people."
As for a timetable for joining NATO, Noghaideli said Tbilisi still needs to do a lot of "homework." He said Georgia is in "intensified dialogue" with NATO now, and that he hopes a decision will be taken soon on the next step -- a Membership Action Plan.
After that process is completed, he said, Georgia would be invited for full membership.
"We certainly are hopeful that when the next NATO summit takes place, which is due in 2009, that Georgia is in," he said. "That is what our hope is. But again, it is dependent on homework to be done first."
Answering a question about the prospects of so-called colored revolutions in the region, Noghaideli said that Georgia is not going to "export" its revolution to other countries.
"Revolutions are not exported, you know," he said. "Many people are thinking that the Rose Revolution was imported to Georgia by somebody else, that it was done by others. It was done by the Georgian people. It was our choice, our decision."
Georgian Official Assesses Rose Revolution
Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze discussed political developments in her country with RFE/RL in May. more
Foreign Minister Sees Progress On Ossetia
Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili told RFE/RL in May that he sees a "breakthrough" in the frozen conflict in South Ossetia. more
The Kremlin Looks At Kosovo...And Beyond
WILL THE KREMLIN BACK INDEPENDENCE? As the drive for independence grows in the Serbian province of Kosovo, the international community is speculating on how Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, will act. On September 22, Nicholas Whyte, director of the International Crisis Group's Europe Program, gave a briefing on the subject at RFE/RL's Washington, D.C., office. He speculated on what the Kremlin's "price" might be for agreeing to Kosovo's separation from Serbia.
LISTENListen to the entire briefing (about 45 minutes):
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