Georgia poaches foreign minister

Sydney Morning Herald
March 12 2004

Georgia poaches foreign minister

President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia has chosen France’s
ambassador in Tbilisi to be his foreign minister, saying he had
cleared the appointment with the French President, Jacques Chirac.

Mr Saakashvili said Salome Zurabishvili, a descendant of a
19th-century Georgian writer, Niko Nikoladze, was a diplomat of
international standing whose family had migrated to France early in
the 20th century.

He told a news conference on Thursday that he believed the
appointment was “unprecedented in the history of diplomacy”.
Diplomats are normally expected to remain loyal to their own country
and not take up jobs in foreign governments.

He said he would grant Ms Zurabishvili, 51, Georgian citizenship in
addition to her French passport, a dual status the constitution
allowed in special circumstances.

Ms Zurabishvili has worked in the US, the European Union and NATO and
headed the international department of France’s national security
general secretariat until taking up her post in Georgia.

After the fall of communism many people whose families had migrated
to Western Europe and the US returned to their eastern European
roots. An American lawyer, for instance, served for a short time as
foreign minister in Armenia in the 1990s.

Mr Saakashvili, 36, is a US-trained lawyer who led a bloodless coup
in November that brought down the veteran leader Eduard Shevardnadze,
a former Soviet foreign minister.

Mr Saakashvili won a landslide election victory in January and
promised to integrate the republic into NATO, the EU and the European
mainstream.

Almost everybody who went to the polls voted for him, after he had
led what he called the Rose Revolution – the peaceful removal of Mr
Shevardnadze from the presidency after 12 years.

The young new president can answer questions in rapid-fire English,
Russian and French as well as Georgian.

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