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Iran’s Embassy condemns statement made by Georgia’s Justice Minister

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, March 11
The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran assessed the Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani’s recent statements concerning Georgia’s immigration policy as unfriendly and unbeneficial for the two country’s relations.

"Not everyone is happy with large-scale reform... For example, the Agency of Tourism is not happy... When this [immigration] reform became effective On September 1, it resulted in a decrease of 42,000 tourists to our country during the last four months of 2014 – especially among the Chinese, Iraqis, Iranians, and Egyptians... We narrowed this down, and we achieved success in Brussels, and we expect some kind of success at the Riga Summit. Then we can exercise control within the established framework and allow those who wish well for our country – tourists and especially investors,” Thulukiani said on February 18.

Iran’s embassy statement reads that since 1992, when Georgia regained its independence, Iran has supported Georgian interests. It was one of the first countries to recognize Georgia’s independence, and to establish friendly relations. Iran has kept this course for 33 years.

“Throughout history, Iranians, who are very reasonable people with a strong culture, have always worked towards the prosperity of countries they lived in. That’s why restrictions imposed on Iranian investors and tourists may be considered a loss for Georgia. However, this will not influence the relationships between the two nations, despite some having racist and xenophobic points of view,” the statement reads.

In response, Georgia’s Foreign Ministry stated that Georgia’s aspiration towards European integration requires a complete set of reforms.

“The reforms necessitate the improvement of our immigration policy in order for Georgian civilians to be able to enjoy visa-free travel with EU countries, through this and other reforms.

“The minister stressed that there are no large-scale reforms without some difficulties. The minister claimed to be working with her colleagues to resolve each emerging problem,” the ministry states.

The ministry claims that within the framework of these regulations, there will be an opportunity to gradually soften the strict regulations in order to encourage investors from Iran, Syria, Iraq and other countries in which visa travel has been imposed.

“It’s a pity that the statements made by Thea Tsulukiani were followed by such evaluations. Despite that, the ministry will continue working to achieve success in terms of Euro integration and create proper conditions for Iranian investors, tourists, students, etc.,” says the statement.

On March 10 Thea Tsulukiani hosted Iran’s Ambassador to Georgia, saying that the above statement was not the reason of the meeting. The minister said that friendly Georgian-Iranian relations were of the utmost importance and that more than 2,000 visas have been issued to the citizens of Iran since the visa restrictions were imposed.

Prior to the statement made by Iran’s Embassy, a group of NGOs condemned the minister’s statement.

According to them, this statement was xenophobic and clearly discriminatory towards the people of those ethnic groups named by the minister, since she equated them with people who wish Georgia harm and should not be allowed to enter the country.

Visa-free travel to Georgia was abolished for 24 countries, but is still in force for 94. The list of countries with a visa-free regime with Georgia is available on the web-page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at www.