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I'm deeply concerned over Georgia's political crisis, says EU chief Michel

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European Council President Charles Michel speaks during a joint news briefing with Georgia's President Salome Zurabishvili in Tbilisi,
European Council President Charles Michel speaks during a joint news briefing with Georgia's President Salome Zurabishvili in Tbilisi,   -   Copyright  AP/Georgian Presidential Press Office
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European Council President Charles Michel invited both the ruling and opposition parties in Georgia to dinner during his trip to the country, in an attempt to mediate the current political crisis.

Last week, Georgian police stormed the opposition headquarters to arrest the leader of the party, Nika Melia, after a court ruled to place him in pre-trial detention for organising "mass violence" during anti-government protests in 2019.

"I am deeply concerned about the deepening political crisis in Georgia," Michel said during a press conference Monday. "The current political crisis and polarisation clearly risk undermining Georgia's hard-won young democracy in this complex region.

"The political polarisation must stop. The government, as any government, should demonstrate responsible leadership. And the opposition should also step up to the challenges and engage constructively in the interests of Georgia.

"I have called on all parties to de-escalate and come together to relaunch the political dialogue, and I have invited them to a meeting tonight. The time has come to move from facilitation to mediation and, I repeat, to relaunch the political dialogue."

The political situation in Georgia has been tense amid allegations of voter fraud in the country's parliamentary election last year. The opposition is demanding a rerun of the vote.

Former Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who resigned last week over the court ruling to arrest Melia, said arresting the opposition leader could lead to further escalation of the political crisis and threaten the well-being of the country’s citizens.

Michel is currently on a tour of three East European countries, including Georgia, after already having been to Moldova.

He will go to Ukraine Tuesday, where he will meet President Zelenskyy to discuss EU-Ukraine relations and meet with anti-corruption representatives.

The three countries included in the trip are former Soviet republics and still have territorial or military issues with Russia.

But with the EU's influence over them growing over the years, Marc Franco from the Egmont Institute told Euronews that Moscow is displeased with this.

"There is a geopolitical competition between the two because what we call our neighbourhood, the Russians call their near abroad. And they feel unhappy - that is an understatement - that these countries are kind of moving towards the European Union and that the European Union is responding positively and actively to bring these countries closer to the Union," Franco explained.