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Saakashvili invited to Columbia – To go or not to go?

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, August 4
President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili may leave for Columbia on August 7. According to information released by the President’s press service, Saakashvili has been officially invited to attend the inauguration ceremony of the newly elected President of Columbia, Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, along with the other world leaders including Presidents of the countries of the region. As previously reported Juan Manuel Santos Calderon claims not to recognize the independence of Georgia’s occupied regions and intends to keep the policy of former President Alvaro Uribe. This indicates that Columbia will remain Georgia’s supporter in the region even under the new President.

According to State Minister for Reintegration Issues Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian President is planning to visit Columbia on August 7. “I think the President should by all means go to Columbia because of the significance of Latin America and Columbia is an important ally for Georgia, especially in leading the non-recognition policy of the separatist republics. The President’s visit will be a wonderful opportunity to establish relations with the other Presidents invited to the inauguration ceremony,” Iakobashvili said stressing that small countries shouldn’t reject such opportunities.

State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Giorgi Baramidze supposes that the President Saakashvili’s visit to Columbia will be an important step aimed at strengthening the bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Baramidze pointed out that cooperation with Latin America has become important following the Russian aggression; thus Columbia is an interesting partner for our country.

“It is important to find strategic partners and allies in this world of globalization and to cooperate further with them. We have a strategic partnership with the US and it’s worth noting that Columbia is one of the closest allies of the US. Our problems concerning corruption, organized crime and the struggle against separatism are very similar, thus our bilateral cooperation is vital for both parties,” Davit Darchiashvili, Chairman of the Committee on European Integration told the media.

Akaki Minashvili, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee agrees on the importance of Saakashvili’s visit to Columbia stressing this is an issue for further cooperation among various countries regarding the security, safety and non-recognition policy of the Russian occupied regions. Guram Chakhvadze, oppositional Chairman of the Parliament Interfaction Group also welcomed Saakashvili’s invitation to the inauguration even more on such an important date for our country calling it “a right policy”. The MP stressed that the Georgian President’s trip to Columbia will not only affect bilateral relations between the two countries but also have an important impact on the whole region.

The Messenger asked analyst Gia Khukhashvili to share his concerns about the importance of the event for our country. “Whether Saakashvili should attend the inauguration of the Columbian President or not is his personal choice. I doubt that Columbia is such an influential country as it has been mentioned to be by particular media sources [referring to Rustavi 2] which are dividing the world into “camps.” What’s more the only definite thing we know about this country is that it has been the centre of the drugs' trade and is infamous for its drug barons. As for the importance of the event I would simply say that an inauguration has nothing to do with politics and the invitation to the President of Georgia is just following protocol. I’m sure Putin would also have received such an invitation but I doubt that he would accept it,” Khukhashvuli told us. He further explained that the Government of Georgia has rather childishly been trying to avoid the anniversary of the August war stressing he could definitely understand how hard things must be around this date [anniversary of the August war].

Manana Manjgaladze, President Saakashvili’s Spokesperson told The Messenger that Saakashvili has received an official invitation but he hasn’t yet made any particular decisions whether to leave for Columbia or remain here in Georgia. Manjgaladze couldn’t specify when the decision would be made but emphasized that this very information will be immediately published on the website