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Georgia revokes visa-free entry for Iranian citizens

By Ana Robakidze
Thursday, July 4
Georgia unilaterally revoked visa-free entry for Iranians. Starting from the beginning of July 2013, Iranian citizens will have to obtain a visa to enter Georgia.

Allegedly the country had to revoke the visa-free entry for Iranians amid concerns that Tehran might be using its booming business ties with the small ex-Soviet state to skirt international sanctions.

Following the decision, bank accounts of around 150 Iranians were frozen.

The Wall Street Journal published the article regarding the Georgian government’s decision and says revoking visa-free entry for Iranians “is part of a broader push by Georgia to distance itself from Iran after it came under pressure from the U.S.”

The author of the article says the visa-free regime has highly promoted setting up companies in Georgia. “However, Obama administration officials have been concerned that Iran may be using Georgia to evade mounting U.S. and European sanctions aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear program.”

Iran, meanwhile says the countries have to maintain close ties with each other.

Iran's Deputy Ambassador in Georgia, Kebriai Zade, said at the Iranian-Georgian business forum in Tbilisi that Georgia remains an attractive place to invest, particularly for tourism on the Black Sea coast.

Seit Babai, head of the Commerce and Industry Chamber of Iran, who is also heading the delegation of Iranian businessmen, calls on the government to separate the economy from politics. "Those Western countries that set certain limits on Iran will sooner or later realize that a refusal to cooperate with Iran in the economic sphere may be harmful to them," Babai said, emphasizing the importance of Iran in the industrial and strategic plan. Babai is confident that economic cooperation between Iran and Georgia will develop steadily and has a great potential.

Iran’s ambassador to Georgia, Abbas Talebifar, said that Georgia provides a perfect environment for foreign companies. “It can be said that there are all the conditions in place in Georgia required for foreign companies to launch economic operations… there are all the conditions for Iranian businessmen to carry out their economic activities and there is also huge interest from the Georgian private sector to deepen relations with Iran,” the ambassador said at the forum.

The first Iranian-Georgian business forum took its start on July 2. It was attended by Iranian businessmen, representatives of the Chamber of Commerce of Georgia and the Georgian parliament. Iranian companies presented at the business forum remain interested in expanding business in Georgia and are study the investment environment.

The business forum, organized in cooperation with the Iranian Embassy in Georgia, provides Iranian companies with an opportunity to learn more about the investment and business environment of the country.

Attending the forum, member of the parliamentary majority, Zurab Tkemeladze, said both the Georgian and Iranian sides are keen to strengthen relations in the economic area.

Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili is going to maintain positive relations with Iran, in parallel to observing UN sanctions imposed on the country. “We continue our neighborly relations with Iran,” the PM said.