Civil society and the government of Georgia have held the first meeting of negotiations concerning the disputed Namakhvani hydro power project on the Rioni river in western Georgia.
The meeting was mediated by the EU Energy Union Dispute Resolution and Negotiation Center.
Deputy Director Dirk Buschle of the EU Energy Union Dispute Resolution and Negotiation Center, the mediator of the negotiations held on June 15, said that now 'the most important and urgent of these actions is de-escalation on the spot at Rioni'.
Peaceful protests and access to the valley must be possible again, while the safety of people and property, on both sides of the fence, needs to be ensured", he said.
Buschle stated that it is the government's responsibility to 'take the appropriate measures'.
It committed to replacing the existing barriers and ensuring access to the main road. It will also report on the detainment of protesters. The protesters, on the other hand, have committed to not blocking access to the construction site. It is important to respect these commitments", he said.
On June 9 Georgian authorities announced they are negotiating with Enka, the Turkish contractor company for the Namakhvani HPP, to improve the terms of the existing contract, including the unconditional transfer of land, water and other natural resources on a 99-year lease to Enka.
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said that 'under the current conditions the Namakhvani HPP project will not continue'.
I hope we will make the investor agree on the best interests of our country; to build a hydropower plant with even better conditions, which will be in the best interests of our population, including the citizens who oppose the Namakhvani hydropower plant", Gharibashvili said.
Georgian Economy Minister Natia Turnava said that the Namakhvani HPP project, which is 'important for our country and strengthens the state in terms of energy', will be implemented only in an 'improved and safe way'.
She said that while a 12-month moratorium has been announced for the construction of the Namakhvani dam in the Imereti region, 'everything must be done to improve the project'.