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The News in Brief

Wednesday, October 14
Georgian PM Reaffirms ‘Friendly, Strategic’ Relations with Azerbaijan

PM Irakli Garibashvili stated on October 12 that Tbilisi’s relations with Baku will remain “friendly and strategic” and dismissed talk of “diversification with the replacement of Azerbaijani gas” supplies as “utterly absurd”.

The Georgian Energy Ministry said late last week that Tbilisi was open for talks with Gazprom on possible gas supplies for private entities in Georgia in order to, as Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze and his deputy put it, “diversify” energy supplies for the country. Kaladze, who met Gazprom chief executives in Brussels in late September, reiterated on October 12 that private entities might be interested in purchasing Russian gas if the price is acceptable.

Georgia receives most of its gas supplies from Azerbaijan; it also receives, as a transit fee, 10% of gas shipped by Russia to Armenia through a pipeline running via Georgia.

After the Georgian Energy Minister spoke about possible gas supplies from Gazprom last week, PM Garibashvili made a brief and unannounced visit to Baku on October 10, where he met Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, triggering speculation in Tbilisi that the surprise visit aimed at mending ties in the wake of a potential fallout caused by Tbilisi’s suggestions over Gazprom gas supplies.

“It was shameful that [the PM] had to hastily visit [Baku] in order to put right what was messed up in previous days,” said Irakli Alasania, leader of the Free Democrats (FD).

FD lawmakers have called on the Energy Minister to appear before MPs to clarify the situation and explain why there is a need for Russian gas when Georgia already has stable supplier from Azerbaijan.

An opposition lawmaker from UNM party, Zurab Melikishvili, said: “Georgia has been supplied for years with stable and cheap natural gas from Azerbaijan. There is no problem of increasing the supply if there is the demand for additional gas, but they still continue talks with Gazprom, which is damaging Georgia’s interests.”

President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s newly appointed political adviser, Pikria Chikhradze, voiced similar position and said on October 12, that Georgia was not in need of any “diversification” of gas supplies at this stage, especially when it has to do with Russia’s “political weapon” Gazprom.

PM Garibashvili told journalists on October 12 that he visited Baku for “a routine, working, friendly meeting with President Aliyev”.

He said that President Aliyev will visit Tbilisi on November 6.

“We spoke about deepening our close, strategic and friendly relationship,” Garibashvili said.

“No revision of relations with Azerbaijan whatsoever is planned – we have and we will have a very close, friendly and strategic relations with Azerbaijan. How can a politician even think about revising our relations with Azerbaijan? That’s utterly absurd,” the Georgian PM said.

“There are no talks on diversification, replacement of Azerbaijani gas whatsoever; that’s utterly absurd and irresponsible politicians should not mislead people,” he said.

In his comments, the PM did not address specifically the issue of talks with Gazprom on possible gas supplies. (

No wind, storm or hurricane can ruin Georgian-Iranian relations - Iranian Ambassador

No wind, storm or hurricane can ruin Georgian-Iranian relations, the Ambassador of Iran to Georgia Abbas Talebifar said in response to the statement of Georgian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Davit Dondua.

Dondua said "our American colleagues asked us to refrain from a full-scale cooperation with Iran, until all obligations of Vienna are fulfilled". Iran's Ambassador told reporters they had to ask comments on the issue from the Georgian Foreign Ministry.

"Iran and Georgia have one of the best relationships at this stage. We have very good parliamentary cooperation - during the last year, parliamentary delegations of all levels paid visits to Iran. At the beginning of 2016 a visit of Iranian Parliament Chairman is planned to Georgia. Economic and political relations are developing well.

“In 2015, after about a 10-year pause, a session of the joint intergovernmental economic commission was held in Tehran, which was led by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili.

“About 80 important treaties were signed between Iran and Georgia. We are planning to prepare the Georgian Prime Minister's visit to Iran.

“We are developing cooperation and relations daily. There are departments of the Persian language in many Georgia institutions of higher education; many Iranian students are studying here. Relations between our countries started 8 centuries ago”, said the Ambassador. (IPN)

Georgia has the highest proportion of undernourished people in the South Caucasus

Georgia has the highest proportion of undernourished people among South Caucasus countries, according to a new report.

From 2014 to 2016, the level of undernourished people is estimated to be 7.4 percent. This is higher than both Armenia (5.8 percent) and Azerbaijan (1.7 percent).

Worryingly, Georgia is the only former Soviet country where there has been an increase in the level of undernourishment between the 2004-2006 study and the most recent one, a period during which the country has gone through economic reforms to make it more attractive to foreign investments.

Taking into account other factors as well, the Global Hunger Index ranks Georgia 19th among 104 countries around the world, a position it shares with Bulgaria, ahead of China and after Trinidad & Tobago.

According to the 2015 index, the country with the lowest hunger level among countries measured is Kuwait, followed by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The Central African Republic is last on the list, after Zambia and Chad.

“Armed conflict and hunger are strongly associated. The countries with the highest GHI scores tend to be those engaged in or recently emerged from war,” the authors of the report write.

Georgia’s overall hunger score was 31.8 in 1995, 15.2 in 2000, 10.2 in 2005 and 8.5 in 2015.

The scores are calculated by the International Food Policy Research Institute based on four factors: the proportion of undernourished people, the proportion of children under the age of five suffering from wasting, the proportion of children under five suffering from stunting and the mortality rate of children under 5.

A 0 is the best possible score, while 100 is the worst. If the score is lower than 9.9, the hunger level is categorized as ‘low’, it is ‘moderate’ between 10.0 and 19.9, ‘serious’ from 20.0 to 34.9, ‘alarming’ from 35.0 to 49.9 and ‘extremely alarming’ when above 50. No countries scored more than 50 in the latest index. (df Watch)