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Polish PM Talks Economy In Georgia, Energy In Azerbaijan

Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri (left) welcomes Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to Tbilisi.
Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri (left) welcomes Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to Tbilisi.
TBILISI -- Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is in Georgia on a visit aimed at boosting economic ties, as he continues a tour of the South Caucasus.

Tusk was due to meet President Mikheil Saakashvili as well as opposition leaders.

He also visited Polish members of the European Union Observer Mission in Georgia (EUMM). The EUMM -- comprising some 225 members -- is the only international mission monitoring areas near Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where tensions remain in the wake of the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.

Tusk arrived in Tbilisi today from Baku, where energy issues were at the top of his agenda in meetings with officials including President Ilham Aliyev.

For several years Warsaw has been negotiating to have supplies of Baku's crude oil reach Poland through a planned extension of the Odesa-Brody pipeline to Plock, a town in the north of Poland. After talks on March 10, Tusk said it was time to give new impetus to this initiative.

"Poland has already fairly done its part of the job, but the venture's success depends on more countries," he told the Polish Press Agency PAP.

Currently, the Odesa-Brody pipeline carries Russian oil south from Brody to Odesa. If that direction were reversed and the pipeline extended, an existing pipeline could carry Azerbaijani oil to Georgia and from there it could be shipped to Odesa by tanker. From Ukraine it could be pumped via the extension to Poland.

Some observers expressed disappointment that Azerbaijan's human rights situation reportedly was not part of Tusk's discussions with officials.

His visit coincided with a court hearing for two opposition bloggers jailed on what their supporters say were politically motivated charges.

However, Tusk reportedly did not raise the issue of the jailed activists, or meet with opposition or civil society representatives in Baku.

Razi Nurullayev, the deputy chairman of the opposition Popular Front Party, linked Tusk's apparent silence on human rights with the economic interests Poland is seeking to expand with Azerbaijan.

"Poland is a country that has gone through a lot while fighting for independence and against socialism,” Nurullayev told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service. “Then when they [eventually] established independence and democracy, they keep ignoring democratic efforts in other countries, including Azerbaijan. I think Poland is sacrificing fundamental freedoms for economic interests."

On March 12, Tusk is due to travel to Armenia.