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UK Minister for European Neighborhood and the Americas pays 1st official visit to Georgia

By Khatia Bzhalava
Tuesday, February 16
Yesterday, the UK Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas at the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office Wendy Morton paid her first official visit to Georgia. During her stay, Morton met with Georgian high-ranking officials, including Georgian Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze, Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani, and Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia.

The meeting with FM Zalkaliani paid special attention to the importance of the UK-Georgia Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which came into force on January 1st, 2021. According to Morton, this agreement creates the basis for a long-term relationship and underlines the significance of the UK’s strong ties with Georgia. The Minister noted that there are multiple fields where closer ties can be established and stressed the importance of intensifying the political and trade relations between the two countries.

According to the Georgian Foreign Ministry (MFA), the sides underscored the existing cooperation in the areas of defense and security and outlined the dimension of cybersecurity. The importance of Georgia’s engagement in strategic discussions regarding the issue of Black Sea security was emphasized as well. As MFA reports, the parties focused on the security environment and ongoing processes in the region.

British guest stated on her Twitter account that the UK would support the country to introduce reforms during a difficult time following the recent Parliamentary elections. Morton noted that she talked to the Georgian Foreign Minister about the need for all parties to reach a compromise.

“I am delighted to be here today with the Georgian Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs David Zalkaliani to reaffirm the strong relationship between our two countries. We pronounce our unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, as well as for the stability and resilience of the wider region,” Morton told the reporters after meeting Georgian FM.

At a meeting with Georgian PM, regional development, Georgia’s role in a wider Black Sea region, and occupation-related issues were discussed. Gakharia briefed the British guest on the harsh humanitarian situation occurring in the occupied regions of Georgia. The PM discussed ‘provocative actions’ demonstrated by the occupying power, including the detention of locals by the Russian-controlled occupying forces. The illegal detention of Zaza Gakheladze, a citizen of Georgia by occupation forces, and his unlawful sentencing by the de-facto court of Tskhinvali was underlined in this regard.

According to the press office of the government, the sides positively assessed the cooperation of Georgia and the UK in fields such as cybersecurity and the fight against hybrid threats. The focus was also made on the pandemic related challenges. The Prime Minister of Georgia highlighted the role of the UK in ensuring the global accessibility to the vaccines.

The minister also met with Parliament Speaker Talakvadze. As the press office states, the speaker informed the British Minister about the foreign priorities of Georgia stipulated under the Resolution and the Parliamentary agenda. According to Morton, they “agreed that a strong Parliament is the cornerstone of a thriving democracy.” It was also noted that Georgia is a reliable partner and highly contributes to global security.

Morton toured Georgia’s National Crisis Management Centre, which was built with UK support, and met with Georgian Education Minister Mikheil Chkhenkeli. Within the framework of meeting with the British minister, a cooperation agreement was signed with the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia, the British Council, and the National Center for Teacher Professional Development. Based on the agreement, an online platform will be created to provide teachers with a variety of resources for continuing professional growth.

Following the agenda, Morton also visited the village of Odzisi, located near the occupation line. She announced on the site that the UK condemns the effective control and destabilization exercised by Russia over the occupied territories of Georgia.