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Shevarnadze, the second president of Georgia and the foreign minister of the Soviet Union between 1985 and 1990, passed away around noon on Monday in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi at the age of 86.
“One could talk to him on even terms, he was not a fretful person, although being of a Georgian temper he used to get little overexcited from time to time,” Gorbachev said on air of Ekho Moskvy radio station.
“I must say he had an ability and talent of communicating with all sorts of people, including with scientists and ordinary citizens“.
“He was my friend and comrade. Sometimes we had overheated arguments, but we were friends until the very end,” Gorbachev said in an interview with ITAR-TASS. “I offer my deepest condolences to all his friends and relatives.”
Gorbachev said Shevardnadze greatly contributed to the formation of the Soviet foreign policy during the times of Perestroika and particularly into the 1986 signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in 1986 between the Soviet Union and the United States.
“As for the disarmament, he [Shevardnadze] did a lot and was actually in charge of the first statement on the disarmament as of January 15, 1986,” Gorbachev said. “As a result we chose the path of weakening the pressure of the military-industrial sector on the economy.”
In 1985, then-President of the USSR Gorbachev proposed Shevardnadze the post of the Soviet foreign minister, which he accepted and occupied until 1990. His tenure in the office saw the end of the Cold War era with the United States, the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the reunification of East and West Germany and many other historical developments.
“He [Shevardnadze] prepared and implemented major events concerning the restoration of the dialogue with China and the United States,” Gorbachev said. He greatly contributed to the preparations for the Germany’s reunification.”
“He was an honest and decent man and a reliable friend. It is a pity that such people are passing away. However, years go by and people pass away one after another. But we will remember him. And all those, who will be studying our history must know and remember him,” Gorbachev, 83, a Nobel Peace laureate, concluded.
The press service of the late ex-president announced that Shevardnadze would be laid to rest in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on Sunday, July 13, but the exact place of the burial ceremony would be disclosed later.
The press service said the date for Shevardnadze’s funeral was agreed upon by his family with members of the state commission on the organization of burial ceremony.
Shevardnadze served as the president of Georgia, which acquired sovereignty after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, between 1995 and 2003, when as a result of the so-called ‘Rose Revolution’ he was forced to submit a letter of resignation.
Following the resignation Shevardnadze abstained from taking part in the political and public life of his country and was writing memoirs. His latest book of memoirs “Thoughts about the Past and the Future” was published in 2006.