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Georgian politics heat up – founder of largest bank announces civic movement

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Co-founder of the largest commercial bank in Georgia, Mamuka Khazaradze, has announced the creation of a ‘civic movement’, slated for September.

TBC Bank co-founder Khazaradze announced the news today on Facebook, stating that the main goal of the pro-Western movement will be the unification of the country and the preservation of independence.

Against the background of the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2020 in Georgia, this decision of a businessman who is in open conflict with the informal ruler of the country, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is of particular interest.

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In his letter, Khazaradze criticizes the authorities and declares that “the processes taking place recently in the country are becoming alarming”.

Khazaradze says “there is a purposeful process of division and opposition in society.”

Khazaradze says that neither the current authorities or other political parties are capable of de-escalating the current situation, for which the consolidation of the public is necessary.

In September, Khazaradze says he will “unite a healthy, progressive and pro-western society” and invites those who share “the idea of ​​building a modern Western state in Georgia” to this union.

Khazaradze says he will establish a movement together with his “friends and like-minded people, professionals from different fields.

The statement does not indicate who exactly the businessman has in mind. All that is known is that his business partner and friend Badri Japaridze will be in the movement.

Khazaradze says that the night of June 20 pushed him towards this step, and said the day has become a dividing line. Khazaradze has announced his public support for the protesters [ed. on the night of June 20, special forces brutally dispersed a rally on Rustaveli Avenue].

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“Our sincere and free youth expressed a sincere and firm protest against the Russian occupation and violence,” writes Khazaradze.

On June 20, a demonstration was held in front of the parliament, where the crowds protested the Russian occupation [ed. that is, that Russia has recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Georgia considers its own territory and with which a majority of the global community agrees – JAMnews] Khazaradze wrote about this on his Facebook page:

“Long live unanimity in the struggle for the freedom of the country!”

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And after Russia suspended flights with Georgia, Mamuka Khazaradze, in order to promote the tourism industry, expressed his willingness to finance ten Airzena charter flights for Ukrainian tourists from Kiev to Tbilisi.

Khazaradze’s stand off with the authorities

The scandal concerning Georgia’s largest bank began last summer.

The Prosecutor General’s Office was investigating transactions made at TBC Bank over the past 11 years, which now include the former chairman of the supervisory board of the bank, Mamuka Khazaradze, and his deputy Badri Japaridze.

• Explainer: why is Georgian billionaire Ivanishvili waging war against the country’s most popular bank?

During the audit, the prosecutor’s office claims that evidence of money laundering was uncovered – $17 million dollars worth.

From the very beginning of the investigation, the public has discussed the notion that the case against Khazaradze is politically motivated.

Many hypotheses have been put forward, given that it is unlikely that the prosecutor’s office would decide to ‘disturb’ one of the country’s main financial institutions without the consent of the informal ruler Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Some experts say that Ivanishvili sees a political rival in Khazaradze and is trying to clear his way to a victory in the 2020 parliamentary elections.

Others say that Khazaradze was punished for being a friend of the former prime minister, at one time favorite of Ivanishvili, who later fell into disgrace and was dismissed from his post – Giorgi Kvirikashvili.

Mamuka Khazaradze tried to regulate the spoiled relations with Ivanishvili and prove his loyalty during the last presidential elections by supporting pro-government candidate Salome Zurabishvili (the bank even called on its employees to support the pro-government candidate, in a special statement).

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But the fact is that for Ivanishvili the attempts of Khazaradze proved insufficient and not convincing.

The investigation concerning the bank has not yet been completed, many experts believe that Khazaradze is going into politics to save himself.

One of the most significant infrastructure projects in modern Georgia is also associated with the name Khazaradze – the deep sea port in Anaklia.

Experts and politicians

Few doubt that Mamuka Khazaradze’s ‘civic movement’ has political aims.

Economist Gia Khukhashvili says the authorities have pushed Khazaradze to this decision.

“In fact, the authorities didn’t leave Khazaradze another way out by their thoughtless actions. I welcome his appearance in the political space, since the ruling team, which has lost the trust of the population, is betting on the monopolization of resources. And in Mamuka, an alternative resource center appears and this can become an insurmountable problem for the authorities”, Gia Khukhashvili said in an interview with Kommersant.

Member of the parliamentary majority Sopho Kiladze is also confident that the Khazaradze movement has political goals.

“But I don’t think he will have a lot of support,” said the MP.

One of the leaders of the opposition United National Movement party, MP Roman Gotsiridze, says that Mamuka Khazaradze has a good start in order to form a political player, but in his opinion this alone is not enough.

The MP says that the activation of Khazaradze should not mean that “one oligarch will be replaced by another.

Khazaradze, as a person with large financial capital, should not be associated with lobbying business circles. On the contrary, it is necessary to emphasize that a healthy political system should be formed in Georgia and the dominance of the rich should stop once and for all”, Gotsiridze said.

The founder of TBC Bank did not specify who will make up the campaign of the movement – various sources speculate that the former Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili may be on the Khazaradze team.

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Azerbaijan

SOCAR rep clarifies poisoning incident at Azerbaijans Sumgait plant

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Thirteen employees of Azerbaijan’s Ustay company appealed to the management in connection with dizziness and nausea, Ibrahim Ahmadov, deputy head of the Public Relations and Event Management Department of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, told Trend on Nov. 16.

Ahmadov was commenting on the poisoning incident at the Sumgait plant.

Several media outlets spread the information about the mass poisoning at one of the Sumgait plants on Nov. 16. In accordance with the information, the poisoned people were SOCAR employees.

“The employees were sent to the Unikal clinic for a check-up,” the deputy's head said. "Ten of 13 people left the clinic to undergo treatment. Three people were transported to the toxicology department of the Clinical Medical Center."

Ahmadov stressed that the cause of their malaise is unknown.

"No gas leaks were detected in the company,” the deputy's head said. “Our employees from SOCAR, working in the adjacent territory, feel good. There are no problems."

So far, the cause of the incident is unclear.

News.Az

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Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani President congratulates Sultan of Oman

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The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has sent a congratulatory letter to the Sultan of Oman His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said on the occasion of the National holiday of the Sultanate of Oman, APA reports citing Presidential press-service.

The letter reads:

"Your Majesty,

It is on the occasion of the National holiday of the Sultanate of Oman that on my personal behalf and on behalf of the people of Azerbaijan I offer my cordial congratulations to you and through you, the people of your country.

On this prominent day, I wish strong health and success in every endeavor to you and everlasting peace and prosperity to the friendly people of Oman."

News.Az

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Azerbaijan

Graham blocks resolution on the disputed Armenian issue

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Following a meeting with US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the US senator stood up to tell his colleagues they should not sugarcoat or rewrite history, according to TRT World.

On October 29, as Turkey celebrated the 96th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic in Washington, the House of Representatives voted 405-11 in favor of the resolution to recognize the alleged killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

The resolution was not legally binding unless the Senate passes it.

On Wednesday 13 November, US Senator Lindsey Graham blocked the passage of the resolution which would officially recognize the so-called Armenian genocide. Graham's objection came hours after he took part in a White House meeting with US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan alongside a group of Republican senators.

Graham objected to passing the resolution in the Senate, saying senators shouldn't "sugarcoat history or try to rewrite it".

The House vote came in the wake of Ankara's operation in northern Syria to secure its borders from the YPG/PKK terrorist organisation in order to establish a safe zone for Syrian refugees who are currently in Turkey.

The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist organization in the EU, US and Turkey. The YPG/PKK is responsible for more than 40,000 deaths in Turkey.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who has faced corruption allegations in the past and been accused of “poor judgement” in accepting illegal campaign donations, has been one of the main people pushing for the Armenian resolution.

Graham, however, said that he was objecting to the resolution "not because of the past but because of the future" adding on the Senate floor that he hoped “Turkey and Armenia can come together and deal with this problem".

Erdogan has in the past repeatedly reiterated his call for historians to investigate the issue.

"If the US side really wants to act fairly, it should refrain from taking a political stand on a matter that historians should decide," Erdogan has said.

In recent times the main triggers of voting and blocking the Armenian resolutions have been related to politics and not humanitarian sensibilities.

The Turkish operation in Syria was this time the main impetus for this resolution there has also been a distinctly anti-Turkish shift amongst US politicians in the House and the Senate.

News.Az

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