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Ministry of Foreign Affairs announces progress with Turkey, Elbit, UNESCO

By Ernest Petrosyan
Tuesday, January 24
At its regular Monday briefing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs updated reporters on changes to Turkey's visa regime, the government's contract dispute with Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Makharod, a proposed UNESCO delegation to Abkhazia, and Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze's upcoming speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze made assurances that Turkey will not impose a stricter visa regime on Georgian citizens, adding that while Turkey may attempt to alter its position with regards to other countries, any changes will not impact Georgia.

"This is due to the fact that we have close economic relations with Turkey, and it needs to be encouraged. The Georgian and Turkish sides held long negotiations for facilitation of visa regime and we have achieved a maximally facilitated regime," said Kalandadze.

If such a danger emerges in the future, she noted, the Foreign Ministry will hold consultations with Turkey in an effort to minimize problems.

According to the new law, which comes into force this February, Turkey will impose a stricter visa regime for foreign citizens, denying them the right to immediately re-enter the country after their three-month temporary visa has expired.

At the briefing, Kalandadze also announced that the Georgian government has come to an agreement with Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Makharod, regarding the 100 million USD liability belonging to Georgia.

She added that more agreements were signed between the parties, although these were private business arrangements. "Both sides are satisfied, which means both sides made concessions," she remarked. The Deputy Foreign Minister did not specify the value of the agreements, saying that figures cannot be revealed at this time.

In April 2011, Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit reported that Georgia had not paid money owed in a contract signed in 2007. Elbit demanded 100 million USD, threatening to sue in arbitration court. According to the company's website, which disclosed the details of the deal in December of last year, the company will receive 35 million USD and some weaponry back from Tbilisi.

Kalandadze also announced that it is the prerogative of the Georgian government as to how the upcoming UNESCO delegation will arrive in Abkhazia. The Georgian government has appealed to various international organizations, including UNESCO, several times, in the hopes of receiving members on the ground to investigate and evaluate the occupied regions. She noted, however, that the Russian presence in those areas should also assume responsibility for activities such as monument protection. In addition, Kalandadze said that the Georgian government hopes to include Georgian experts in any mission to Abkhazia or South Ossetia.

Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze will deliver a speech at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the official website of the Assembly reports. Vashadze will speak about the Russian occupation as well as the ongoing reforms in Georgia, according to an InterpressNews correspondent in Strasbourg. In addition, the Minister will take answer questions, according to a member of the Georgian delegation, Parliament Vice-Speaker Mikheil Machavariani.

The PACE winter session opened today in Strasbourg.