Several Western envoys have been sent to Georgia to urge President Mikheil Saakashvili to lift a state of emergency and media restrictions imposed on November 7.
They include U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza, who arrived today and is due to stay in Tbilisi until November 14; Peter Semneby, the Special Representative of the European Union for the South Caucasus; and former European Parliament President Josep Borrel Fontelles, for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In an interview with RFE/RL's Georgian Service on November 9, Bryza said lifting the emergency measures was essential to ensure Georgia's upcoming presidential election was free and fair.
Saakashvili on November 10 pledged to lift emergency rule soon, but said it was up to his government to decide the timing.
"I understand the impatience of our friends who maybe don't like this state of emergency," he told a meeting of business people. "And I want to say that, of course, in the coming days [the state of emergency will be lifted] -- but only when we decide, not when somebody tells us, and when I, as your leader, am absolutely sure that all risks are gone. And I'm sure it will happen in the next few days."
Government, Opposition Talks
The envoys' visits come as representatives of the Georgian government and the opposition met November 10 for the first time since police crushed antigovernment protests last week and Saakashvili imposed the state of emergency.
In an interview with RFE/RL's Georgian Service today, Peter Semneby, the EU envoy, welcomed the talks, and called for more dialogue between the government and the opposition. Parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze, representing the government at the talks, described them as a "breakthrough."
"There are no results yet from today's talks, except that we have started talking," said Salome Zurabishvili, the leader of the opposition Georgia's Way party, "We have gone through almost all the major issues and the list of issues that we have to go through before we can enter an electoral period."
Saakashvili imposed a 15-day state of emergency after police used rubber bullets, water cannons, and tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters rallying for a sixth day to call for the president's resignation. The move was later approved by lawmakers.
All news reports were banned except on public television and radio.
The next day, Saakashvili announced presidential elections would be brought forward to January 5, 2008. Early elections were one of the main demands of protesters.