The United States is deeply troubled by the arrest of opposition leader Nika Melia and other members of the opposition in Georgia.
The arrest of Nika Melia, the leader of the United National Movement, has drawn thousands of protesters into the streets of the capital, Tbilisi, demanding his release and has created a rift within the ruling party. Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia resigned recently amid a debate within the government over enforcing an arrest warrant for Melia. He is alleged to have violated the terms of his bail related to a case against him that he and Georgian NGOs claim is politically motivated. It is reported that some 20 other people were also arrested at the party’s headquarters.
“Polarizing rhetoric, force, and aggression are not the solution to Georgia’s political differences,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement.
The U.S. Embassy in Georgia warned that the political arrests in Georgia have moved the nation “backward on its path toward becoming a stronger democracy in the Euro-Atlantic family of nations.”
European Commission spokesperson Peter Stano urged “all sides in Georgia to show the necessary restraint, utmost restraint and responsibility, to avoid more escalation in the interest of the country and its people.”
The political situation in Georgia has been tense amid allegations of voter fraud in the country's October parliamentary elections. The Georgian Dream party, which has governed Georgia for the last eight years, claimed it received the largest share of the vote at 48 percent. But opposition parties refused to recognize the results, claiming the count was manipulated.
Both Georgian Dream and United National Movement have pro-Western platforms promoting better relations and eventual membership in NATO and the European Union.
“We call on all sides to avoid actions that could further escalate tensions and to engage in good faith negotiations to resolve the current political crisis [in Georgia],” urged spokesperson Price.
The United States stands ready to support a democratic, secure, and prosperous Georgia.