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Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia


Interview of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Gela Bezhuashvili to the newspaper ,,Egyptian Gazette''

'You cannot be only a consumer of security but also a provider'

Mohamed Ismail Special to the Mail

We have inherited the best from the Eastern civilisation, a senior Georgian official said recently. "Georgia is the crossroads of civilisations in the Caucasus,” Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gela Bezhuashvili said in an interview with the Mail

"We are a Black Sea nation with a Black Sea identity. In Tbilisi you will see the mosque, synagogue, Georgian, Russian and Armenian churches are all located within one square kilometre downtown,” Bezhuashvili said."My neighbours were Kurds, Jews, Armenians, Azeris, Russians,” he said adding all of Georgians speak four languages.As for the number of Muslims in the country, Bezhuashvili said: "There are several areas in Georgia populated by Azeris, who are Muslims. Besides, some of the Georgians living in Ajara on the Turkish border, confess Muslim religion but they are all part of our society.”"There is no clash in Georgia based on ethnicity or religion, civilisations exist in harmony regardless of the socio-economic problems we are confronted with,” he said.With regard to Israeli policy in Palestine and the separation fence, Bezhuashvili said: "I don't see that there is unilateralism in Israeli actions... They are building a wall... that is how they try to protect themselves."I don't have the impression that Israel disregards the international community.” He added that Georgia and Israel enjoy historical relationship. "The Jewish community in Georgia that left for Israel is now part of the community there.”The Minister, however, believes that Israel has a greater responsibility for achieving peace. "Israel is an established democratic country with institutions and far more stable government than the Palestinian Authority is. The Palestinian Authority doesn't control the situation sometimes."I am not talking about the level of democracy. I am talking about the due process inside the country.”Bezhuashvili added there had been a readiness as from the Israeli side to recognise Palestine. "There is a territorial claim, and historical territorial dispute and we are not jumping into it because it is not for us to judge who is the owner of the territory... We will support the decisions taken by United Nations and the international community.”He added that Georgia recognised the Palestinian state in 1992 and has official ties with it.Georgia has 850 soldiers in Iraq and is the second largest contributor per population after the US.Why? Because Georgia feels the need to be part of the broader community. "You cannot be only a consumer of security but also a provider.”He also connected this with the fact that Georgia used to be part of the former Soviet Union. "We are still squeezed by our neighbour Russia not wanting us to play any significant role or to be a part of the west-orientated world.”Bezhuashvili added that Georgia is keen to achieve peace in Iraq since it is a neighbouring country.Another reason behind joining the coalition was the big support, namely, from the United States. "The US helped us a lot to build our state, and building a road ahead to the future.”"It was one of the factors that affected our decision when the US asked for manpower contribution in Iraq,” he said.Regarding mandate of withdrawal, Bezhuashvili said that the parliament extended the mandate for another year. "As long as the coalition and Iraqi government need these soldiers on the ground, our soldiers will be there.”Georgia has two break-away provinces, one in Abkhazia and the other in Tskhinvali region. Bezhuashvili criticised the mixed messages of Russia in this regard. "They are sort of recognising the territorial integrity of Georgia but on the other hand they keep arguing these two provinces have the right of self-determination,” he said, adding Russia was supporting the separatists.Recently, Georgian President Mikhail Saakshvili visited Russia and he was kept waiting for three hours before he could meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Russia wants to show its superiority...Being arrogant towards smaller countries do not give credit to any big power.” The conflict started in 1992-1993 when 300,000 refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) out of half a million in Abkhazia were displaced from their homes. "The separatists say they need to define the destiny of this territory...We told them to return back and only after that we can discuss the status of this region in Georgia."We are ready to grant the highest European type autonomy to Abkhaiza within the Georgian sovereign borders after refugees and IDPs return back to their homes,” he stressed.Bezhuashvili welcomed President Mubarak's initiative to organise an international conference on combating international terrorism.He also pointed to the important role played by Egypt in the Middle East peace process and explained Georgia is playing the same role in mediation between different parts. "We try to establish healthy channels and reduce the gap between our two neighbours Azerbaijan and Armenia which have fundamental problems... the same Egypt is doing between Israel and Palestine... but on a smaller scale.” In regard of the bilateral relations between Georgia and Egypt, Bezhuashvili pointed out there are no political constraints or obstacles that would prevent establishing good relationships."We have to establish fertile ground for business people. We have to find fair rules for the play and the government will be the arbiter."Like Egypt, we want Georgia to be a tourist destination. Georgia was used to being called the Soviet Riviera for its beautiful beaches, mountains, and forests,” he said, adding Georgia has an intention to get use of the Egyptian experience in this regard."Tourism business is a peculiar one and it needs skilful management...Many Georgians have been trained in tourism educational schools of Egypt.”Bezhuashvili said Georgia has abolished visas from more than 50 countries. He added there are charter flights from Tbilisi to Cairo and if the number of tourists increases from both countries, Egypt could join the no-visa regime of Georgia.

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