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October 09, 2012

Newly Elected Leaders in Georgia Promise to Look West

by Jeff Seldin

It will be Georgia's first peaceful transition of power since breaking away from the former Soviet Union.  Billionaire politician Bidzina Ivanishvili met with President Mikheil Saakashvili Tuesday, hoping to ease the way for Ivanishvili's Georgia Dream coalition to take control of parliament after last week's watershed elections.

The meeting was a show of unity after a bitter political campaign.

Ivanishvili said one constant must be Georgia's movement toward the West.

"Europe and the Euro-Atlantic space is an essence of our strategy, and there will be a continuation of the course of the previous government.  We will move towards Europe, and Georgia will become a NATO member country in the nearest future,''  Ivanishvili said.

But Ivanishvili has also said he will seek closer cooperation with Russia.  
 
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov remained cautiously optimistic. "We hope the new government in Georgia, when it's formed, will pursue a course to normalize relations with all its neighbors, including Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia,'' Lavrov said.

The breakaway Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are a sticky subject for Georgia, since Russia has recognized their independence.  And Lavrov met Tuesday with South Ossetia's foreign minister.

For now, though, Georgia's leaders appear focused on a smooth transition at home. President Saakashvili downplaying the animosity that marked the run-up to the parliamentary election.

"And I think there is one major thing which should be emphasized.  I want to wish my people success. I am sure that Georgia will have a great future and we (United National Movement party) are going to be an important part of this future as citizens and politicians,"  Saakashvili said.

The world is waiting to see how this critical transition ultimately plays out.