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Foreign Ministry juggling Fiji, Turkey, breakaway regions

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, January 31
Fiji's potential recognition of the breakaway regions, visa misunderstandings with Turkey, and continued problems in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are all at the top of Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Jalaghania's to-do list.

Jalaghania hopes that Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Fiji will be unsuccessful, and that the island's government will manage to resist "temptation". Lavrov is in Fiji this week to convince its government to recognize the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Jalaghania noted that Russia has made a policy of buying recognition from countries with low economic development, using bribery or economic pressure. "The states of Tuvalu, Nauru, Venezuela and Nicaragua are examples of this, where bribes were directly offered, sometimes in the form of credit,” Jalaghania remarked.

Unlike those countries, whose resistance to Russia was not “exemplary,” the Deputy Foreign Minister hopes that Fiji will "stay loyal to the international principles recognized by all UN member countries."

A "visa misunderstanding" with neighbouring Turkey is also on-going. Recent changes to temporary visas for foreign visitors have put the status of Georgian labour migrants in limbo, and possibly made irrelevant memoranda signed by the two states. Jalaghania assured the media that, "We are holding negotiations with the Turkish side and are trying to transform this law into one that is acceptable for both sides."

Based on the changes to Turkish legislation, citizens of foreign states are welcome in Turkish territory for a three month period, after which they are barred from entering the state again for a subsequent three months. Georgia has a visa free regime with Turkey.

The Deputy Foreign Minister also assessed the situation in Georgia's breakaway regions as "complicated," maintaining that any escalation in the regions would be “unpleasant.” He also mentioned the travel advisory for Georgia listed on the United States Department of State website, which warns U.S. citizens against travelling to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and refers to the territories as "occupied regions."

On the subject of Abkhazia, the Foreign Ministry confirmed that a Georgian monk known only as Iona has been detained in the region. Jalagania called the detention a "vandal act" and promised that the issue will be raised on January 31 in Gali, at a meeting regarding cross-border incident prevention.

Political analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili told The Messenger that Fiji has to consider how much "state prestige costs for Fiji authorities,” compared to the immediate financial advantage offered by Russia. In Georgia, Fiji is mostly known for its rugby players, otherwise "here people have no mind on Fiji’s political taste,” Tsiskarishvili said.

As for Turkey, he believes that the changes to Turkey's visa regime do not reflect a problem in its relations with Georgia, rather an effort to combat the thousands of illegal employees that threaten its citizens' interests. "I do not wait any changes in Turkish law in favour of Georgia, as it would be a sign from the Turkish side that it puts Georgia's and other states' citizens in unequal positions," he concluded.