Bakradze visits Israel to discuss Georgian monastery, visa regime
By Lera Khubunaia
Thursday, March 15Speaker of Parliament Davit Bakradze is visiting Israel to discuss ownership of the historically Georgian Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem, and also a potential visa-free regime.
Based on information provided by Parliament's press service, Bakradze met with Ya'akov Margi, the Israeli Minister of Religious Services, on Monday. They discussed the monastery, which is currently under the ownership of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
"It is very important that the Israeli government is involved in this process, because the monastery is located exactly on the territory of the Israeli government," Bakradze said. "The authorities of this state can decide many things regarding our problem. It is important for us that the Israeli authorities are always informed and that they support this process; we spoke exactly about this with the Minister of Religious Services".
After their meeting, Margi stated that the Israeli government is ready to help Georgia and bring negotiations to a conclusion that will benefit all parties.
"We spoke about the Monastery of the Cross with the speaker of the Georgian Parliament. This is a very problematic and discreet issue and there will be more discussions between the Georgian President and the leader of our country," Margi said. "Three regions are involved in this issue; I think Israel should make its own contribution, so that negotiations may end with an acceptable result for all parties. The Greek Church is involved too, but we will do everything to help Georgia".
During the meeting, the Ministers also spoke about the relationship between their two counties and discussed the need for a simplification of the visa regime. Under a recent proposal, individuals with diplomatic passports will be able to travel without a visa for 3-4 months, whereas regular citizens may benefit from a simplified regime.
The Speaker continued with other official meetings on Tuesday. He met with the Speaker of the Knesset and its representatives, where they discussed not only political issues, but also economic ones – including possible non-stop flights between Israel and Georgia. This will help increase tourism between the two countries, according to the politicians.
During his visit, Bakradze also called on Georgian House in Jerusalem, where he presented an icon of the Virgin Mary to the Georgian nuns living there. Mother Eugenia personally thanked him for his support.