Georgian Government Minister Zurab Zhvaniya met with Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze in Batumi on December 20. The goal of Zhvaniya's visit was to persuade Abashidze to have Adjaria participate in the presidential elections on January 4. Zhvaniya also visited the building site of a new tunnel between Batumi and Kobuleti.
After their conversation, Abashidze and Zhvaniya gave a joint press conference. Zhvaniya said that he was satisfied with the continuation of the dialogue with the autonomous leader and generally optimistic. Abashidze has also been visited recently by Georgian President Nino Burdjanadze, US Envoy Lynn Pasco and US Ambassador to Georgia Richard Miles. They all tried to persuade Abashidze to conduct the presidential elections in Adjaria.
Zhvaniya's meeting with Abashidze did not yield any clear results to the question of Adjarian participation in the presidential elections. Abashidze said that Adjaria would never violate the constitution of the country and seemed to hint that the elections would take place in Adjaria. He did not say what Adjaria would receive for its participation in the elections. However, he did remind the current Georgian leadership of its mistakes, which have lead to the loss of Abhazia and South Ossetia and confrontation with Adjaria. Moreover, he said 1.5 million residents of Georgia have been forced to leave the country as a result of poor economic policies. He also said that momentum from the recent Georgian revolution would not bring anything good to the country. Abashidze said that in order for the change in power to give positive results, the federal government must change its approach in dialogues with autonomous regions. He emphasized that he would support positive dialogues. 'The notion of Adjarian separatism is delirious ravings,' he said.
Zhvaniya said that the notion that Adjaria was taking a separatist route was a myth, which 'has burst like a soap bubble.' 'There are, of course, differences between the federal government and autonomous regions but we also have a lot that unites us. I came here to solve this problem and establish quality new relations. This requires great effort from both the center and the region,' he said. Zhvaniya added that Burjanadze and presidential candidate Mikhail Saakashvili are in favor of normalizing relations with Adjaria.
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