Prime Minister of Georgia Met President of Azerbaijan in Davos
Giorgi Gakharia, Prime Minister of Georgia met Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan within the scope of World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos today.
Second meeting of Georgian and Azeri leaders within a short timespan evidences high-level dynamism of bilateral relations.
Discussions at the meeting today were related to the strategic partnership of two countries, along with transport and energy projects of regional magnitude that are implemented jointly by Georgia and Azerbaijan. Topics of bilateral agenda were also reviewed.
Prime Minister of Georgia and President of Azerbaijan agreed to continue with intensive communication in future.
Prime Minister's Press Office
Statement by Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia
Another military confrontation between Azerbaijan and Armenia has created a grave situation. There are heavy casualties and, unfortunately, the cessation of hostilities and the resumption of dialogue has not been possible thus far.
We all understand that further escalation of the situation will have an extremely negative impact on the security of the entire region. We once again call on the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs and international actors to make the most of the available opportunities to end the escalation and resume dialogue. As you know, our country has good neighborly relations with both countries, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Historically, our Azerbaijani and Armenian citizens living in Georgia have always played a great role in the development and strengthening of our country, as well as the entire region. At the same time, their peaceful coexistence is a good example demonstrating that Georgians, Armenians, and Azerbaijanis have the potential to turn the entire South Caucasus into an area of peace and development.
It is our common interest for peace to be established in the region as quickly as possible. Georgia is ready to facilitate this process in any way, including by hosting a meeting of representatives of the sides of the conflict in Tbilisi for the purpose of holding a dialogue.
Press Service of the Government Administration
Georgian PM Gakharia and European Commissioner Varhelyi Sign Financing Agreements Worth 129 Million EUR for COVID Recovery
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia held a meeting with European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi in Brussels.
The meeting focused on the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic. The importance of the assistance provided by the European Union to Georgia was stressed.
The head of the Government of Georgia and European Commissioner Varhelyi signed two financing agreements with a total budget of 129 million EUR, which aim to improve the socioeconomic situation in Georgia as a result of the spread of the coronavirus. Giorgi Gakharia stated that the signing of the COVID-19 Resilience Contract and the Integrated Territorial Development documents within the framework of the visit is yet another confirmation of the special partnership between Tbilisi and Brussels.
The European commissioner emphasized the strengthening of transport and communication links, economic recovery, and development. The Prime Minister paid special attention to the importance of developing physical transport and communication links with the European Union in political and economic, as well as security directions, noting that the majority of the population of Georgia supports Georgia's European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Georgia's important role in the wider Black Sea Region was also stressed.
During the meeting, the Prime Minister spoke about Georgia's reforms and democratic development in accordance with European standards, in terms of which the country is a regional leader. Giorgi Gakharia underscored the recently implemented electoral reform, as a result of which the country has moved to a new stage of democratic development.
The parties discussed the difficult situation and instances of violation of human rights in the occupied territories of Georgia.
While discussing the occupation, the Prime Minister noted that 20 percent of not just the country's territories, but also its development and opportunities are under occupation. Giorgi Gakharia thanked the European Union for its strong support for the country's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The discussion also touched on the importance of implementing new initiatives within the framework of the Eastern Partnership and focusing more on bilateral relations with the associated partners. It was noted that Georgia is a leader country in the Eastern Partnership.
The Prime Minister also underscored the progress made by the state in terms of the reform of civil service, stating that a politically neutral civil service has been established in the country and that corresponding steps have been taken at the legislative level as well, which is one of the key components of good governance.
The meeting, which was held at the European Commission, was attended by Georgian Foreign Affairs Minister Davit Zalkaliani, Head of Georgian Mission to the European Union and Ambassador of Georgia to the Kingdom of Belgium and Luxembourg Nata Sabanadze, and Head of Government Administration Natia Mezvrishvili.
Press Center of the Government of Georgia
Azerbaijani President highly appreciated Georgia's friendly position
It’s common knowledge that on September 19, 1994, Azerbaijan and a consortium of international companies signed the first contract for the development of oil fields on the Caspian shelf. This agreement was called the "Contract of the Century" and put the foundation for cardinal changes in the region, opening it up to the world and bringing it out of the closed space of the former USSR. Azerbaijan rightfully considers this date, which is celebrated as the Day of the Oilman as important. This year, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev took part in the ceremony of laying the foundation for offshore operations at the Absheron field, where he gave a detailed interview to the country's leading TV channels.
Commenting on the situation in the zone of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, including the transit of military supplies from Russia to Armenia immediately after another aggravation of the situation in July this year, he in particular stressed: “I must say that I highly appreciate the actions of the Georgian Government in these events. As you know, Georgia did not allow the transportation of weapons to Armenia through its territory. That is why transport planes deliver weapons to Armenia through the territories of the Caspian littoral countries and by air. Georgia behaved like a very reliable partner. I would like to express my gratitude to the Georgian Government for this. I can say that we see the Georgian Government as a reliable partner and friend. Intergovernmental ties are strengthening day by day. Many important projects are being implemented. In the near future, our Foreign Minister will pay an official visit to Georgia. This will be his first visit to Georgia as Foreign Minister. The program of the visit is being prepared now. There are many questions. We are bound by both historical ties and common interests. Today, ties and developing cooperation between Georgia and Azerbaijan serve the interests of both countries. I want to say again that the Governments of Georgia and Azerbaijan are in close contact with each other, and this will continue".
DETAILS RELEASED OF GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT’S CAMPAIGN TO STRANGLE ANAKLIA PORT PROJECT
Ruling Georgian Dream Party Reversed its Support for Vital Project,
Wiping Out Economic Benefits for Georgia
TBILISI, GEORGIA, 9 September, 2020 – The Anaklia Development Consortium (ADC), the company originally selected by the Government of Georgia to develop the strategic Anaklia Port Project, today shared additional details of the Government’s campaign, directed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, to undermine the project by dissuading potential project investors, lenders, contractors and suppliers from joining the project in order to kill it.
The following statement is issued on behalf of the ADC Supervisory Board:
“All infrastructure projects of such scale require government support; namely the encouragement of lenders and investors, the assistance in permitting, regulatory approvals and a favorable tax regime, and providing any ancillary support; in this instance, the provision of land and the construction of road and rail infrastructure. For a government to actually oppose an infrastructure project that it had itself approved is highly unusual in the global economy.
“The Georgian Government’s campaign to strangle ADC’s ability to develop the Anaklia Port Project represents a self-inflicted wound for itself and considerable injury to Georgia’s economy and its role in the region.
“Taken together, the Georgian Government's specific actions are part of a deliberate and well-orchestrated campaign to destroy a project which the Government itself originally sponsored and endorsed, but subsequently chose to destroy as a result of what appear to be the political and economic self-interests of the Georgian Dream Party and its principals.
“The Government manufactured all sorts of excuses for not wanting to see various investors, lenders and partners involved in the project, but the Government really only had one purpose: to choke the project to death by scaring away everybody who might have an interest in supporting it.
“Also, is it beyond coincidence that government ministers – including two Prime Ministers -- who voiced support for the project or otherwise expressed concern about the growing controversy with the project were tendering their resignations shortly after such comments were made?
“The damage to Georgia caused by the Government goes well beyond the potential loss of the Anaklia Port and the associated Special Economic Zone. The conduct of the Government is scaring away investors at a time when Georgia cannot afford to lose any more foreign investment. According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the amount of foreign direct investment in Georgia has fallen from nearly US$ 2 billion in 2017 to just over US$ 1.3 billion in 2019, and in the first quarter of 2020, stood at only US$ 171.8 million - a catastrophic decrease even before the Covid crisis began to take effect. As Retired U.S. Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges of the Center for European Policy Analysis said, ‘the government only has itself to blame.’”
Some examples of the Government’s efforts to strangle ADC and the Anaklia Port Project include:
- Georgian Dream party leader Bidzina Ivanishvili requested to meet with ADC to discuss the Anaklia Port Project and asserted that the expansion of Poti Port could achieve the same objectives of the Anaklia Port at a far lower cost.
- During a June 12 meeting of the Georgian Dream party, attended by more than 100 party officials, Party Leader Bidzina Ivanishvili personally blamed Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili for his actions in support of the Anaklia project and for having close ties to ADC investor Mamuka Khazaradze. Mr. Kvirikashvili resigned the day after that meeting.
- In February 2019 ADC learned that during an October 2018 meeting with senior U.S. State Department officials in Tbilisi, Mr. Giorgi Gakharia (then Minister of Interior) advised the U.S. officials that the Anaklia Port project was not in Georgia’s interests.
- SSA Marine, which was selected as the Anaklia Port operator and was a potential investor, alerted ADC of its concerns about what seemed to be the Government’s support of an expansion of the Poti Port. (Following detailed studies sponsored by the Government back in 2013-14, it had been determined that Poti Port could never meet Georgia’s needs for a Deepwater Port, which is why the government itself selected Anaklia for development at that time. The Government’s subsequent expressions of support for expansion at Poti was a clear signal to the lending and investment community that the Government was no longer supportive of Anaklia.)
- A sovereign European development bank advised ADC that it had decided against supporting the project because of the negative actions of the Georgian Government, and the possible shift of support to the Poti Port.
- Another sovereign European development bank advised ADC that it was withdrawing its support because one of its counterparts had just done so (above) due to the state’s apparent shift of support from Anaklia to Poti.
- It has been reported that Infrastructure Minister Maya Tskitishvili, in ministerial hearings before Parliament, undermined SSA Marine as a potential investor and as the port operator, claiming the company lacked experience and financial capacity. These assertions were not true. In the process of her speech, the minister also breached legal obligations of confidentiality that were associated with the investment agreement.
- SSA Marine advised ADC that it was suspending its activities related to the Anaklia Port project.
- Mr. Giorgi Kobulia, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, told “Forbes Week” that the negative public discussions and media reports of the Anaklia project were having a negative impact on the business climate within Georgia. He subsequently resigned within days of the interview.
- A major U.S. private equity firm which was in advanced negotiations with ADC to join the project revealed to ADC that Government officials warned the firm to stay away from the project.
- Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, in a trade visit to the U.S., met separately with SSA Marine, the leadership of the U.S. private equity firm that were interested in investing in the project, and with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, D.C. Secretary Pompeo expressed support for the Anaklia project with the prime minister standing next to him, saying it would “strengthen Georgia’s ties with free economies and not allow Georgia to be under the economic influence of Russia or China.” Upon his return to Georgia, Mr. Bakhtadze resigned, and this again put the project in unchartered waters.
- At a meeting in Tbilisi, a large Hong Kong-based private equity group with significant Central Asian transportation synergies that was considering joining the project was told bluntly by Infrastructure Minister Tskitishvili that the Government did not desire their participation in the project. At this same meeting Ms. Tskitishvili reaffirmed the Government’s seeming opposition to SSA Marine’s involvement in the project.
- Giorgi Volski, Vice Speaker of Parliament, falsely claimed that the Hong Kong private equity group mentioned above is a “Russian” company, with the intention either of disparaging it or sowing further confusion about the government's position in respect of the project.
- In a meeting between Prime Minister Gakharia and an Anaklia Supervisory Board member, Mr. Gakharia stated that “things had to get quiet” before he could reassure the major potential U.S. investor of the state’s support for the Anaklia Project, which the board member understood to be a condition that ADC and Mr. Khazaradze stop criticizing the government publicly on its opposition to the Anaklia Project, and the government would stop criticizing ADC.
- Also, the Supervisory Board was promised a letter of support to a U.S. investor from the highest levels of the Government, but this never materialized, even though ADC did comply with the Government’s request.
- A delegation from the U.S. (in Tbilisi to participate in the 5th annual Tbilisi International Conference sponsored by the McCain Institute) met with new Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, and subsequently with Mamuka Khazaradze. Representatives of the delegation told Mr. Khazaradze that Prime Minister Gakharia told them the Anaklia project was not commercially viable when this was patently not the case.
- Fadi Asly, chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, is quoted in the media saying, “No one will invest in Anaklia project as long as Bidzina Ivanishvili wants to destroy it.”
Taken together, these are only a selection of the instances where the Government of Georgia actively undermined the project in an effort to prevent ADC from developing the project. ADC intends to present evidence during the upcoming arbitration proceedings to demonstrate the degree to which the Government took such steps.
Further details of the Anaklia Port project and ADC can be found at http://anakliadevelopment.com
President Ilham Aliyev: One of the issues negatively affecting Azerbaijani-Greek cooperation is related to “DESFA”
As reported earlier, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has today accepted credentials of the newly-appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Greece Nikolaos Piperigos.
AZERTAC publishes some excerpts from President Ilham Aliyev's remarks at the meeting.
“I believe there have been several issues that negatively affected our cooperation. One of them is related to the Greek gas company “DESFA”. I can say that our energy company SOCAR joined the bidding for the purchase of “DESFA” at the request of the Greek government. The former Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Samaras, personally asked me for SOCAR to participate in the tender. As a result of an open tender, SOCAR made the best offer and won the right to own “DESFA”. This was also important in terms of our plans to build the Southern Gas Corridor. That was about six years ago. At that time, of course, we were simply planning to build a connection between Azerbaijan and Europe, and we thought that if Azerbaijan was to supply gas to Greece, it would be good to have a company that distributes this gas. In any case, we made an advance payment of 40 million euros, which is 10 percent of the price, and for four years – from 2014 to 2018 – the money was at the disposal of the Greek government. Unfortunately, the previous government of Greece did everything to deprive SOCAR of this right.”
“I would like to reiterate that we originally obtained this legitimate right at the suggestion of the Greek prime minister, in an open and competitive tender, but were deprived of this legitimate right for political reasons due to the negative attitude of the previous government of Greece towards Azerbaijan. This certainly had a serious negative impact on our already low-level relations. Frankly, we then decided that if the government of Greece was treating us like that, we would have to think about how we would respond. Our response was to do virtually nothing. We did not make any demarche. We did not take any diplomatic steps.”
“So this was a very disappointing issue and, of course, I think it had a serious impact on our relations. But, let me say again that this wasn’t done on the initiative of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has always supported the development of relations. In fact, you certainly know that TAP was not the only option for the transportation of Azerbaijani gas. There were several options for the transportation of Azerbaijani gas to Turkey. It could have been in a different direction. However, the choice of TAP was also a decision made by investors, foreign oil companies and Azerbaijan. In other words, for our part, we made a positive gesture to Greece. But after the previous government came to power – I want to emphasize this because before the former Syriza government came to power, we had very good relations with the governments of Greece.”