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Georgian PM Addresses NATO Membership, Territorial Integrity Issues at Qatar Forum

By Khatia Bzhalava
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said during a panel discussion at the Qatar Economic Forum that Georgia first needs to resolve its territorial problems to become a member of NATO. As the Prime Minister noted, whether Georgia will join NATO depends on the country's strategic readiness and patience, as well as on a consensus of all member states of the Alliance to grant Georgia NATO membership.

“We are not naive, we understand that Georgia has territorial problems, we must solve this issue first and then become a member of NATO, this is the opinion of our European and NATO member states,” Garibashvili stated at the forum.

The Prime Minister’s remarks have caused controversy, with Former Deputy Foreign Minister and ex Vice Speaker of the Parliament, Sergi kapandze stating that PM Garibashvili “basically says no to NATO, claiming that Georgia first has to resolve territorial problems and then join.” For Georgia party member Kakhaber Kemoklidze, who is an ex-Head of the Government Administration, also reacted to Garibashvili’s statement, saying that the remarks made by him were ‘damaging’ and ‘a gift to Russia’.

At the Qatar Forum, the PM also stressed that Georgia fought against Russia three times over the last 30 years and the Georgian government’s policy is to restore territorial integrity and sovereignty through peaceful negotiations. Asked if he could trust Russian President Vladimir Putin in solving Georgia’s territorial issues, Garibashvili responded: “We have not had any contacts since we came to power in 2012, there have been no political consultations, only economic, trade relationship exists, this is the reality we live in.”

At the forum, the PM also focused on the government not imposing national economic sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine. According to him, the head of the Government needs to “think about the security of Georgian people” in making decisions on the matter, pointing out that the country is in ‘quite a vulnerable situation’ due to the Russian occupation. He noted that Georgia was ‘not the only country’ that did not impose national economic sanctions on Russia, stating that Moldova chose the same policy for ‘very obvious reasons’.

As Garibashvili noted, Georgia fully aligns with the international community over its sanctions on Russia. According to him, the government has made it “very clear” that “no sanctioned individual or company” will be allowed to use Georgia to bypass the sanctions, stressing that closing the sanctioned Russian VTB Bank in Georgia was a clear example of this.

The Prime Minister also touched upon the 2008 war, stressing that there was “no proper, adequate reaction” from the world and ‘no sanctions were imposed’ on Russia for invading and eventually occupying two of Georgia’s regions.

“I want to remind everyone that during that time in 2008, no one in the world paid enough attention to the fact a sovereign nation, the independent country of Georgia, was invaded by Russia, which occupied 20 percent of its territory. There was no reaction - no adequate, proper reaction - from the world”, Garibashvili noted.

The Georgian Prime Minister started his visit to Doha, the capital of Qatar, on Monday. Within the framework of his visit, the PM will hold bilateral high-level meetings. Yesterday, Georgia and Qatar signed two agreements on Mutual Support and Protection of Investments and on Economic, Trade, and Technical Cooperation. The deals were signed following the meeting between Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, the Prime Minister and Interior Minister of Qatar.