Georgia's pro-West foreign minister quits, coalition faces crisis

Georgia's Foreign Minister Maya Panjikidze speaks during a news briefing in Tbilisi on Nov 5, 2014. Georgian Foreign Minister Maya Panjikidze resigned on Wednesday, citing threats to the former Soviet republic's pro-Europe course after the dismi
Georgia's Foreign Minister Maya Panjikidze speaks during a news briefing in Tbilisi on Nov 5, 2014. Georgian Foreign Minister Maya Panjikidze resigned on Wednesday, citing threats to the former Soviet republic's pro-Europe course after the dismissal of its Western-leaning defence minister. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgian Foreign Minister Maya Panjikidze resigned on Wednesday, citing threats to the former Soviet republic's pro-Europe course after the dismissal of its Western-leaning defence minister.

Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili faces a growing crisis in his governing six-party Georgian Dream coalition, a day after firing Irakly Alasania as defence minister.

Alasania had criticised the arrests of several officials in his ministry as politically motivated and aimed at those who favour better relations with the West.

"Georgia's Euro-Atlantic integration is the most important thing for me and my team," Panjikidze said in brief remarks at a news conference at which she said four deputy foreign ministers were quitting with her. "My team and I cannot hide the threats that our country faces now," she said without giving any details.

Alasania's Free Democrats party is considering leaving the government, a move that would jeopardise its majority in parliament. Panjikidze is not a member of the Free Democrats but was one of the most pro-Western members of the government.

Georgia, a country of 4.5 million crossed by pipelines that carry Caspian oil and gas from Azerbaijan to Europe, has expressed interest in joining NATO and the European Union but is wary of doing anything to upset Moscow following a five-day war with Russia in 2008.