Georgia foreign minister resigns amid political crisis

Georgia foreign minister resigns amid political crisis
Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze (right) and Archbishop Dominigue Mamberti, Secretary for the Holy Sees Relations with States enter a hall during their meeting in Tbilisi on September 15, 2014. Panjikidze and her four deputies have resigned "to show what threats the country is facing."

TBILISI, Georgia - Georgia's Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze resigned Wednesday amid a political crisis that has gripped the ex-Soviet republic following the prime-minister's decision to sack his pro-Western defence minister.

Panjikidze and her four deputies have resigned "to show what threats the country is facing," she told a press-conference.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili sacked defence minister Irakli Alasania after a raft of corruption charges were brought against high-ranking defence ministry officials.

Alasania, who has pushed for the former Soviet state to join NATO and the EU, described the charges as "groundless and politically motivated" and "an attack on Georgia's Euro-Atlantic choice".

The scandal risks dismantling the country's ruling Georgian Dream coalition as more government members have threatened to quit and politicians go into opposition.

Alexi Petriashvili, the minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration and a close ally of Alasania, resigned in protest.

Deputy Prime Minister Kakhi Kaladze said that other members of Alasania's Free Democrats party, including the justice minister, are expected to follow suit.

Georgia's pro-Western President Giorgi Margvelashvili, also denounced the "political confrontation that endangers the functioning of state institutions and the country's Euro-Atlantic integration." A source in Georgian Dream told AFP that the Free Democrats would go into opposition, leaving the coalition without a majority in parliament.

Georgian Dream, a coalition of parties assembled by former prime minister and billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, came to power in October 2012, ending the decade-long rule of the pro-Western president Mikheil Saakashvili and his United National Movement party.

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