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Chairman of Georgia’s ruling party blasts foreign ministers for speaking at protest

Garibashvili suggested that foreign diplomats feel dismissive toward Georgia

TBILISI, May 18. /TASS/. Irakli Garibashvili, chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party, described the speeches that foreign ministers of Lithuania, Estonia and Iceland made at a protest in Tbilisi against the bill on foreign agents as meddling in the country's affairs.

"These people spoke at a rally organized by the opposition. What else can we call this if not an insulting interference in the internal political affairs of our country? What is this if not an insult? It is unacceptable when the foreign minister of a foreign country comes [and speaks at a rally], especially a diplomat. This is an unwritten law. This is a red line. And when they speak and teach us what to do from the podium of the opposition, it's unacceptable. What kind of support is this? It is a gross interference, a violation of everything. And they dare tell us about friendship," Garibashvili told reporters.

He said the ministers would probably dislike it if Georgian politicians spoke at opposition rallies in their own countries.

"But we do not interfere in their internal affairs, so why do they allow themselves to do so," he said.

Garibashvili suggested that foreign diplomats feel dismissive toward Georgia.

The foreign ministers of Iceland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia arrived in Tbilisi on Wednesday to discuss the bill on foreign agents. They held talks with Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili. The foreign ministers of Iceland, Lithuania and Estonia came to the parliament building in Tbilisi and addressed the crowd rallying against the law on May 15.

The Georgian legislature passed a bill on foreign agents in the third reading on May 14. It began considering the bill in April. Since then, people have been taking to the streets in protest. Several times the rallies escalated into clashes with the police, who used pepper gas and water cannons to disperse protesters.

The bill has been criticized by the US, EU, UN, NATO, OSCE and the Council of Europe. Leaders of Georgia's ruling party argue that it only serves to provide transparency of foreign funding for non-governmental organizations and news media. Georgian President Zourabichvili said she would veto the bill.