Armenian President Armen Sarkissian arrives in Tbilisi
The President of the Republic of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, arrived today in the Georgian capital Tbilisi with an official visit.
Georgian presidential administration reports that Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani, Head of Presidential Administration Natia Sulava, and Georgian Ambassador to Armenia Giorgi Saganelidze welcomed Armenian President at the Tbilisi International Airport.
The official welcoming ceremony of Armenian President Armen Sarkissian and his spouse Nune Sarkissian will be held at the Orbeliani Palace.
Georgian and Armenian Presidents will have face-to-face and expanded meetings and make a joint statement for the media. Georgian Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze will also meet the Armenian President.
Armen Sarkissian plans to tour the Armenian Cathedral within the framework of his official visit.
Ambassador of China to Georgia, Zhou Qian Presented The Letter of Credence to President of GeorgiaOn June 3, 2022, Ambassador of China to Georgia, Zhou Qian presented the Letter of Credence to President of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili.Ambassador Zhou Qian conveyed the cordial greetings and good wishes from President Xi Jinping to President Salome Zourabichvili, and remarked that China and Georgia have longstanding friendship. He expressed, that the Chinese side is willing to work together with the Georgian side to actively develop friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries and continuously enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples. Ambassador Zhou is ready to actively fulfil his duties in this important post and will spare no effort to further advance the development of China-Georgia relations.President Zourabichvili welcomed Ambassador Zhou to his new post and thanked President Xi Jinping for his cordial greetings. President Zourabichvili remarked that Georgia attaches great importance to China-Georgia relations, and is willing to join efforts in order to promote bilateral cooperation in various fields and achieve more fruitful results. Her Excellency also expressed willingness on her and Georgian Government’s behalf to provide strong support and assistance to Ambassador Zhou in fulfilling his duties.Head of the Administration of the President of Georgia, Natia Sulava, Deputy Foreign Minister, Teimuraz Janjalia, Advisor to the President of Georgia, Liana Jervalidze, Economic and Commercial Counselor of the Embassy of China in Georgia, Zhao Chuanyi attended the ceremony.
Georgian-Armenian relations - what is ahead
In 2022 Georgia and Armenia have marked the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. These relations saw several ups and downs for this turbulent for both countries period. The past three months have been marked with intensive exchange of high-profile visits between the countries.
The relatively decayed under the previous government Georgian-Armenian relations have been enlivened thanks to the efforts of Nikol Pashinyan and his government. Georgian-Armenian summits in the last December and this October held in Tbilisi and Yerevan entailed significant mutual steps for developing further bilateral trade and economic relations in the best possible way. These summits largely predetermined consecutive proactive bilateral dialogue at the level of the various agencies, which seems particularly important in the backdrop of the complicated geopolitical situation in the region. Currently bilateral trade economic relations are institutionalized through the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation between the Republic of Armenia and Georgia.
Cross-border cooperation was also on the table of the recent talks between the parties given the sensitivity of the issue, especially after the second war in Karabakh. Some problems with regard to Georgian-Armenian border remain, despite attempts of the officials not to speak about loudly and publicly. One of the examples is village Khojorni situated on the territory of Georgia, but almost completely surrounded by Armenian territory. However, demarcation and delimitation of Georgian-Armenian border appears to be less problematic for Georgia as compared to the more difficult border dispute with Azerbaijan, largely associated with the David Gareja monastery complex.
Peaceful Neighborhood Initiative in the South Caucasus initiated by Georgian Prime-minister Irakli Garibashvili, which designs a format for a dialogue between the three nations and aims at the mutually-beneficial cooperation, was one of the subject of the high-profile discussions. Georgian party underlined its readiness to facilitate or mediate peace dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, it appears that neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan show any significant interest in this initiative in the backdrop of mediation by far influential players such as Russia and European Union.
Nevertheless, both parties underlined aspiration of Yerevan and Tbilisi to give new impetus to the bilateral relations. Armenian officials have repeatedly highlighted that further promoting “special, good-neighborly” relations with Tbilisi is one of the priorities of the Armenian Government’s 2021-2026 action plan. Apart of the issues of regional security, the parties expressed readiness to step up bilateral cooperation in the areas of justice, human rights and public services. Both parties gave due attention to the worsening situation in Karabakh as an integral and important part of the regional security. PM Pashinyan stressed that the existing “high level of political dialogue between Armenia and Georgia” can be a foundation to further expand cooperation.
Meanwhile, Georgia tries to keep sober balance in its relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan. Before the trip to Yerevan the new foreign minister Ilia Darchiashvili paid a visit to Baku having thereby emphasizing primacy of relations. Attitudes of Georgian citizens to Armenia and Azerbaijan differ respectively. The nationwide poll conducted by International Republican Institute this March, revealed that when answering the question: Which of these countries do you consider the most important political partners for Georgia? Turkey and Azerbaijan were named by 20% of respondents respectively, while only 7% named Armenia.
Despite optimistic public statements by Georgian and Armenian officials about deepening economic cooperation, Armenia tries to secure alternative routes of supply in evasion of the main land route through Georgia. Beginning June 15, the Armenian government plans to launch regular ferry transportation of goods across the Black Sea as an alternative to the only land road through the Upper Lars checkpoint connecting the country with Russia. The road through Upper Lars checkpoint, which connects Armenia with Russia is crucial for the Armenian economy. Armenian cargoes often end up stuck in queues for a long time due to weather conditions and limited capacity of Upper Lars. According to PM Pashinyan, Russian-Ukrainian war exacerbated these problems.
The agreement between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia about unblocking transport communications in the region after the end of the second war in Karabakh, bred fear in Georgia that the country might be supplanted from the new transport and transit facilities in the region, and downgrade Georgia’s role as a transit country. For obvious reasons Georgia is suspiciously observing the attempts of Armenia and Turkey for comprehensive improvement of bilateral relations. The opening of their long-closed border as well as the restoration of diplomatic ties would have tremendous effects on the geopolitical picture of the region. The opening of the otherwise geographically closed region, which has been mostly dependent on Russia for infrastructure in recent decades, would open up and give Turkey a bigger stake in the region’s fate. The role of Iran cannot be downplayed as well.
Certainly, these perspectives heavily depend on the upcoming changes of the security architecture in the region which is directly linked with the consequences of the war in Ukraine.
Georgian-Armenian relations, war in Ukraine and geopolitics
Along with issues of bilateral cooperation, Georgian and Armenian officials gave due consideration to the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on the security architecture in the South Caucasus. This topic has acquired particular significance for the three South Caucasian states amid the continued accusations from the Ukrainian intelligence bodies that Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are negotiating with Moscow over the reexport of Russian products to international markets in the form of Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani goods.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia have tried in different ways to balance the need for good relations with Moscow with a desire to support Ukraine. The conflict in Ukraine directly affects Armenia and Georgia’s behavior toward Russia and the West making them to maintain a careful balance between these two important partners. A clear indication of this effort was that in difference of Georgia, Armenia voted against revoking Russia’s membership in the Council of Europe and abstained in votes suspending Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council and condemning Russia in U.N. At the same time, Armenia wants to maintain ties with the European Union (EU) and the West, but is not eager to support Ukraine because of Kyiv’s past support for Azerbaijan. As a result, Armenia has sought to signal its support for Russia without alienating the West.
Georgia's highly measured stance to the conflict in Ukraine, including refusal to impose sanctions on Russia and open the “second front,” what official Kyiv requests, are slightly different from the challenges, which Armenia and Azerbaijan are facing.
It must also be noted that imposing sanctions against Russia, which is highly likely to include significant restrictions of transportation through the Upper Larsi checkpoint – the sole land route connecting Armenia with Russia, will seriously harm both Georgian and Armenia’s economics, to say nothing about associated political complications. Outcome of the war in Ukraine is still uncertain. Had South Caucasian states entangled somehow in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which increasingly transforms in the standoff between Russia and the West, they can easily find themselves as part of a fast-evolving wider confrontation with all afferent consequences. The Ukraine conflict gives Moscow less incentive to greenlight the normalization processes between Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan since they are pushing back against Russian influence in the area. Despite the key role it played in the 2020 war, Turkey found itself sidelined by Russia in the South Caucasus after the end of the fighting. Improving ties with Armenia represents “a chance to regain a seat at the table in regional trade and transport.
Fate of “3+3” format amid the war in Ukraine
The war in Ukraine has sidelined somehow the much-talked of “3+3 Format” declared as an instrument for establishing a lasting peace in the South Caucasus after the 44-day war in Karabakh. But letting alone the conflict in Ukraine, the format is torn apart by significant contradictions between the declared participants. This is particularly true with regard to Georgia and Armenia who have been reluctant or skeptical towards this format for their own reasons. After the first meeting in the "3+3" format on December 10, 2021 in Moscow attended by representatives of 5 countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Turkey and Iran except of Georgia, the next meeting has not been scheduled so far. Existing and future contradictions between the participants, including refusal of Georgia to join the "3+3" format, reduces its geostrategic and geopolitical value, making the format heavily dependent on the outcome of the war in Ukraine. Consequences of the war in Ukraine will significantly influence on the attitudes of the key players such as Turkey and Russia. In the light of Georgia’s demonstrated aspiration to integrate into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, its participation in the “3 + 3” format, aimed at supplanting the West as a player from the region, appears impossible. To this effect, cooperation between Armenia and Georgia will be important in order to be ready for all possible scenarios. In this regard, the initiative of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev about interaction between Tbilisi, Baku and Yerevan in a trilateral format highlighted at the meeting with the Georgian foreign minister Ilia Darchiachvili during his visit in Baku this April, deserves attention. So far, the initiative has not been developed further, most likely because of the new cycle of Armenia-Azerbaijani tensions. When speaking about the future of “3+3” format, some Georgian experts suggested that Armenia and Georgia should come up with the “3+3+2” initiative, where “2” should be the European Union and the United States. Only time will tell whether “3+3” survive as a geopolitical project and how and whether Georgia and Armenia will benefit from it.
All in all, both Georgia and Armenia, which belong to the different blocs, most likely are not under the illusions of overcoming natural barriers caused by this factor. Meanwhile, due to the circumstances caused by the second war in Karabakh, one the one hand, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, on the other, political leadership of both countries are aware of the looming challenges. Therefore, the changed geopolitical realities in the South Caucasus and around, bolster Tbilisi and Yerevan to build the type of relations that would help each party retrieve maximum economic and political benefits. Rapprochement of the attitudes on the divisive issues, creating stable and trusting relationships with a higher degree of predictability, appears to be the result, which both parties could expect in the short and mid-term perspective. Achievement of this result might create a groundwork for propelling the bilateral relations at a new level.
By Zaal Anjaparidze
Zaal Anjaparidze works for International Center on Conflict and Negotiation (www.iccn.ge) as program coordinator for peace dialogue in S. Caucasus. Zeal coordinated engagement of civil society organizations, youth groups and peace journalists of the South Caucasian states in the conflict prevention and confidence building.
In 2017, he was manager of the EU-funded project in the Czech non-governmental organization People in Need (www.pin.ge). During 2005-2016, Zaal worked as senior program manager for civil society development program at Europe Foundation (www.epfound.ge). For 1994-2004, worked for the USAID international projects in Georgia (Сhemonics International, the Urban Institute, Barents Group), the Caucasian Institute for Peace Democracy and Development (www.cippd.org) and editor-in-chief of "GEORGIA TODAY" weekly (www.georgiatoday.ge).
Since 1997 to date, Zaal Anjaparidze has been a Georgian contributor and analyst for Jamestown Foundation (www.jamestown.org). Mr. Anjaparidze writes extensively about major events and trends in Georgia and Caucasus for the various national, regional and international editions and think tanks.
On the 26 of May, the Georgian nation decided once and for all to live in a free, independent country - S. Zourabichvili
First of all, happy Independence Day to those of you who are swearing allegiance to the homeland today. The Georgian military has been characterized by its ability to fight, by its responsibility, its self-sacrifice and loyalty to oath. Today, you are becoming part of this worthy military history. You know and are well aware that defending the independence and freedom of a country is not an easy task and requires dignity and dedication.
On the 26 of May, the Georgian nation decided once and for all to live in a free, independent country. Thus, the Georgian nation once and for all refused to be part of another country, refused slavery.
Today, the 26 of May, is not only a day to revive the past, nor is it an ordinary holiday, it is a day of reflection and understanding. A day when we should think about our country and ask ourselves whether we are doing everything that this country needs, for its future, for the well-being of its people, for its independence and for its freedom.
This question should be asked by everyone, every citizen, every child of this country, living here or abroad. After all, independence means that the future of our children is in our hands and that no one can avoid this responsibility. However, and this thinking is obvious, those of us who stand on this side of the tribune owe more, for we have more responsibility. This responsibility is stronger now, because Georgia is once again standing at a crossroads, not unlike many crucial moments in its history. In front of us has come the time for new opportunities and new challenges and they require certain answers, readiness, foresight, a vision and courage with caution. It requires unity in the first place - and I will say this as many times as it takes.
A historic opportunity arose on the road to Europe. This road to Europe did not arise without bloodshed and without sacrifice. This aspiration was based on the knowledge that common values united us and connected us to the European civilization. And while we defended the Georgian faith, identity and values against a number of conquering empires, we also defended Europe at the same time. These shared values encompassed everything that is the key to our European future today, that is - four core values and principles.
1) A fair court, a principle which dates back many centuries in Georgia and is based on the historical cornerstones of Georgian law: be it the customary law of Antiquity, the 13th-century "Book of All the Mistakes of Men", the 14th-century criminal law of King George the Brilliant, or King Vakhtang VI’s unique repertoire of historical legal writings. The history of Georgian law would have adorned many European countries, and it is a bit of a shame that we cannot continue this legacy properly today.
2) The cornerstone of Georgian culture, which is also the defining value for Europe - tolerance and diversity. Even today, we and Europe owe it to ourselves to continue this tradition.
3) The Christianity of Europe and Georgia instructed us to recognize humanity as the center of the world and therefore to respect and protect all of its rights. On our way to Europe, this also stands on our agenda.
4) And finally, the balance of power to avoid the temptation of authoritarianism that characterizes our history. The division of the Executive and Legislative branches and their balancing dates back to the 12th-century reign of Tamar the King, under the form of the Karavi and the Darbazi, which stand as the foundations of Georgian parliamentarism. Thus, we must understand that the protection of these values is neither the fulfillment of someone else's dictated will, nor the danger of alienation and loss of identity, but on the contrary - taking decisive steps on the path to Europe is tantamount to returning to oneself. That is why, cognitively or intuitively, this path is supported by all of society and this support has not only slowed down but strengthened over the years. Today, for the first time, a real chance has arisen. Neither the civil society united around this goal, nor the souls of our ancestors, nor the future generations will forgive us for missing this chance. Instead, those who will be able to succeed on this path will inherit a unique place and appreciation in Georgian history. The choice is yours! The choice is ours!
With this great historical chance, Georgia is facing no less powerful challenges. The war in Ukraine, in the heart of Europe, reminds us of the tragedies of the war waged on Georgia more than once in the past centuries. Precisely because we know the cost of such devotion to country, do we owe it to ourselves not only to feel the pain of the Ukrainian people, but also to show full solidarity with them. We understand what is the power of solidarity and we see this in the Georgian society expressing that solidarity in all possible ways. We also understand very well that even our accelerated path toward Europe is the merit of the Ukrainian people, achieved with their blood and suffering. Ukraine has gone through incredible battles, its warriors have shown the world an example of courage, devotion and endurance. I would like to pay here tribute to the fallen Ukrainian and Georgian heroes, because what they all fought for is independence and freedom, and the 26 of May is a day for independence and freedom. We know and will never forget that Ukraine today defends not only its own freedom, sovereignty, and independence, but also our freedom and that of other European countries. It protects the future of a united, strong, free Europe.
At this time, the challenges related to our occupied territories are not slowing down, on the contrary. In this tense environment, there is an attempt to convince people that Georgia can "use this time" and try to return territories by force - this is another obvious Russian misinformation. I once again address our citizens in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, assuring you that Georgia will not act against you through war and force. It is clear to everyone today which country threatens the sovereignty, identity and life of its neighbors. This is not Georgia. I appeal to you and offer that, as in the past we created the Georgian state together, now together we should create an equal future. I offer to you to join us in an European united future. I offer you freedom, and the respect and protection of your language, your identity, your history, your culture. I offer you new accord. At this time, this yet-another provocation by Russia, the threat of referendum and annexation, will not achieve its goal - the escalation of the confrontation between us and our shift from the policy of peace. Russia mustn’t make another grave mistake and wrongdoing, and must not once again try to disregard all the norms and principles of international law. This will not go unanswered and will provoke appropriate reactions from the international community.
Today, on the 26 of May, my request and wish to you, the society and the political elite, is one: Strength is in Unity! When if not today, must we realize that we have no other way! A united nation has a great future ahead: Europe and return to our roots! Once again, I would like to appeal to all of you and remind you that national accord in this should not remain an empty word and should reflect our state and historical consciousness. This chance exists today!
I would like to read one sentence from the declaration created by several groups of young people that will be signed today at the Orbeliani Palace: "Young people living in Georgia stand together to reach out to the international community at this crucial moment in the country and to express our unwavering will and support for the country's European future."
We are tasked with listening to these young people and paving the way for future generations to make their own choices. Success on this path depends on us and only us. And “us” means all of us: the government, the opposition and the society with all its components.
That is why I am ready to be your voice and deliver this message of the nation where the voice of Georgia should be heard today! So they too can understand the unified message of Georgia "We are Europeans"! We must all serve this goal... and this is how I understand the words of the oath uttered today: "I serve Georgia!"
Long live Georgia!
President S. Zourabichvili Gifts Books from Elene Akhvlediani’s Personal Library to Museum of Books
President Salome Zourabichvili gifted books from the personal library of Elene Akhvlediani to the Museum of Books of the Ilia Chavchavadze National Parliamentary Library on International Museum Day.
According to the administration of the President of Georgia, the books, which were purchased personally by the President, include: Du “Cubisme” by Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger and Les Peintres Cubistes by Guillaume Apollinaire.
During the event, the President stated that “these two important books bring us closer to European culture and show how much we had merged with it before the Soviet Union and Soviet pressure separated us from Europe. We are returning to this path now and as a sign of that I want to give you these two books.”
Levan Taktakishvili, Director of the Library Resources Department of the NPLG, noted the number of materials gifted by President Zourabichvili in the library: “We received many gifts from Mme. Zourabichvili dating back to before her presidency. The archives of her parents, of her husband are in the library. It was Mme. Zourabichvili who awarded the Order of National Hero to Mikha Khelashvili. We’re always ready to seek more and more interesting material.”
David Zalkaliani has hosted his Armenian counterpart
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, David Zalkaliani met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Ararat Mirzoyan, who is paying a working visit to Tbilisi. The Ministers reviewed the current agenda of bilateral cooperation in various fields, as well as the situation in the region.
They positively assessed the dynamics of high-level contacts, which contribute to further rapprochement and expansion of trade and economic ties between the two countries. between the two countries. In this regard, the Ministers welcomed the regular nature of holding economic commissions between the countries. The conversation focused on the initiative of the Prime Minister of Georgia to ensure lasting peace and stability in the South Caucasus.
David Zalkaliani briefed his Armenian counterpart on the dire humanitarian and security environment in the occupied regions of Georgia.
The sides drew attention to the fact that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Georgia and Armenia and stressed the importance of this date.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia