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The President of Georgia visited the US on 14-17 May 2013. During his trip, the President visited Los Angeles, Chicago and New York where he met with US business and political authorities. In particular, he held a meeting with Senator Marco Rubio and met with Cory Booker, the current Mayor of Newark. Saakashvili also awarded Bill Clinton with St. George’s Victory Order. The trip caused a certain turmoil in Georgia.

Zviad Kvachantiradze, Member of the Parliamentary Majority, addressed the President’s US trip at the plenary session held on 15 May 2013 and requested information regarding Mikheil Saakashvili’s foreign trips from the Head of the President’s Administration. The First Deputy Chairperson of the Foreign Relations Committee stated: “Recently, I talked with the leadership at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia and they confirmed that the Ministry does not have any information regarding the President of Georgia’s foreign trips. The foreign diplomatic service of Georgia is not involved in the preparation and implementation of his visits.”

During his remarks, Kvachantiradze requested information regarding the status of the President’s visit and the agenda. The Foreign Relations Committee also wondered under which status members of the Parliamentary Minority travelled with the President.

Zakaria Kutsnashvili,  Member of the Georgian Dream coalition, also addressed the issue of the President’s foreign trips. According to his statement, the President of Georgia has to provide explanations regarding his foreign trips at the meeting of the Security Council: “Georgian society should know the answer to questions such as what is the purpose of Saakashvili’s foreign trips and, secondly, what are the benefits of these trips for our state and society.”

FactCheck

wondered about  Zviad Kvachantiradze's statement and whether or not the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia and the diplomatic service was informed and involved in the preparation of the President’s visit to the US.

Davit Zalkaniani, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, stated at the briefing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia on 20 May: “The President of Georgia visited the US a while ago. You are aware that the Embassy is operating there; we have a newly appointed Ambassador who offered to participate in the  meetings planned for the President. It is natural that the Ambassador, as well as Embassy representatives should participate in these types of meetings. However, the President turned down his request."

The Administration of the President of Georgia addressed the statement by Davit Zalkaliani through an official letter on the President's website: “We feel compelled to respond to such interesting statements by Davit Zalkaliani, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. In his speech, he accused the Administration of the President of Georgia of an uncoordinated relationship between the President and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. Before he made such a statement, it would have been good if the First Deputy Minister had combined the facts. Archil Gegeshidze, Georgia’s Ambassador to the United States, knew every detail about the President’s current visit (14-17 May). Mikheil Saakashvili introduced the Ambassador to the programme and plans of his visit right at the airport. Correspondingly, Archil Gegeshidze was accompanying the President of Georgia at the President’s reception which was held on behalf of the President at the Congress.”

FactCheck

contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia and the Administration of the President of Georgia to check the contradictory information provided by both of them.

An official letter of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia highlights that there is no common practice established of informing the Ministry about the President’s visits. According to the letter, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not officially informed about the President’s US trip on 14-17 May 2013. However, Georgia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States was involved in the preparation and organisation of the President’s visit.

Zurab Darchiashvili, Head of the Office of Protocol and Foreign Affairs at the Administration of the President of Georgia, provided FactCheck

with an official explanation: “ The Administration of the President of Georgia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia are closely cooperating in the preparation of the President’s visits. High-ranking officials’ visits abroad are organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia and the diplomatic service. Up to now, we have never encountered a problem regarding the coordination with the embassies nor are we expecting it. The President’s visits have confirmed this."

According to the Public Relations Office at the Administration of the President of Georgia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia is always informed about the President’s foreign trips in advance of the visits through confidential communications from the Office of Protocol. This particular visit was not an exception. However, the Press Office does not have any specific answer whether or not representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been offered to participate in organising the visit.

Conclusion According to the official information acquired by FactCheck,

we determined that there is no specific rule for informing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the President’s foreign visits. In addition, Archil Gegeshidze, Georgia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, was informed about Mikheil Saakashvili’s visit to the US on 14-17 May. He was personally involved in planning the visit and attended the reception for Congressmen organised on behalf of the Georgian Embassy in Washington, DC with the President. It should also be noted that Ambassador Gegeshidze, according to the MFA letter, was not present at all meetings in which he wished to participate.

Nonetheless, we rate the statement by Zviad Kvachantiradze: “The Ministry confirmed that they do not have any information regarding the President of Georgia’s foreign trips. The foreign diplomatic service of Georgia was not involved in the preparation and implementation of his visit,” MOSTLY FALSE.

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