GD Chair Doubles Down on Criticizing EU, U.S. Ambassadors

Ruling Georgian Dream party chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze doubled down on recent criticism of the former EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell in Georgia and on U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan in an extensive July 21 interview with pro-government TV Imedi.

MP Kobakhidze criticized Amb. Hartzell on July 20, when his term officially ended, for playing a “strictly negative” role in relations between the EU and Georgia during his time in the country. EU’s Lead Spokesperson for External Affairs, Peter Stano shot back at the ruling party’s criticism and underscored, “Blaming others for your own unfulfilled ambitions only confirms the need to have more time to understand how the European Union works and that reforms are homework.”

Concerning the U.S. Ambassador, Georgian Dream officials have recently lashed out at her on several issues, including the U.S.’ critical position on Judge Lasha Chkhikvadze’s decision to imprison opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV chief Nika Gvaramia. Controversy first arose when Judge Chkhikvadze said an Embassy representative questioned him following the case after which he was removed from a Judge’s U.S. exchange program.

Amb. Hartzell not treating “Georgia as a sovereign nation”

Building on his previous statements, the MP emphasized yesterday the party had a “very solid basis” for criticizing Amb. Hartzell when they “saw an attitude where he did not look at Georgia as a sovereign state.”

Referring to concerns over his comments voiced by the MEP delegation which visited the country this week, Kobakhidze denoted, “they said one thing while here: that it is better to criticize politicians rather than diplomats, and to this, we answered that, precisely, because Carl Hartzell acted not as an Ambassador but as a politician it became necessary for us to evaluate his work as we did.”

Referencing the April 19 agreement brokered by the EU, among other examples of Amb. Hartzell’s involvement in Georgian politics, MP Kobakhidze added, “there were a lot of statements in public, which of course we could and did evaluate negatively, and this was happening even more behind the scenes than in public. This attitude was very offensive, because Georgia should be seen as a sovereign state by everyone and especially by diplomats.”

Attacks on U.S. Ambassador

Addressing the State Department’s July 20 statement in support of Amb. Degnan, which voiced concern about the “disinformation and personal attacks” on the Ambassador, the GD Chair emphasized, “we have never attacked the Ambassador… Questions were asked about specific topics, and the questions cannot, in any case, be assessed as an attack.”

“We heard extremely disturbing accusations against an employee of the Embassy that he pressured the court on behalf of the Ambassador,” he explained, “when such an accusation is heard from a Judge, who is a representative of the Georgian state, this requires a clear answer.”

The MP stressed that Amb. Degnan’s latest statement on the issue yesterday, that the U.S. does “not use our programs to sanction or to punish anyone” was inadequate.

The GD Chair said the lack of a clear answer “creates the risk that tomorrow a different official, from an Embassy or not, a politician or civil servant may perceive that this is the norm, that you summon a judge, ask for a report, and when you receive this or that answer, you punish the judge because of a specific case.”

“When we talk about the clan, theoretically, if we imagine a clan it is nothing more than this, a clan is a group of people who summon judges, ask for reports and then punish them. And here the accusation is related to clan elements and it is necessary to give a clear answer to this publicly,” he concluded.

Response to Ukraine Expecting More from Georgia

MP Kobakhidze also addressed a remark made yesterday by Andrey Kasyanov, the Temporary Representative of the Ukrainian Embassy in Georgia, that Ukraine expected more support from Georgia, and reiterated the claim that “Ukraine wants to see Georgia as a second front… He [Kasyanov] moved on to the fact that we did not arm Ukraine, which would mean directly involving Georgia in the war.”

“Georgia did everything it could have done,” Kobakhidze underscored, “Wherever there was a principled position of the political support to be stated, we did so, and secondly, [we provided] humanitarian [support]. As for the other so-called support that Kasyanov talked about today, it leads to war… The only thing we have not done for Ukraine is not get involved in the military conflict.”

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