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Government denies deal to host training base for Syrian rebels in Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, September 25
Georgia’s potential involvement in the developments in Syria and Iraq has become a topic of heated discussions in Georgia. The fuss over the issue is the result of a recent article released by Foreign Policy magazine on September 23, which reads that Syrian rebels might undergo military training in Georgia and Georgian soldiers might leave for Syria as well.

The article cited Georgia’s Ambassador to the United States Archil Gegeshidze, who allegedly claimed that the Georgian government has volunteered to be the host country for training the Syrian rebels.

Gegeshidze immediately denied that he said this, and that the information voiced by the publication was false on account of the journalist’s incorrect interpretation.

“It appears that the foreign media also suffers from unqualified staff,” Gegeshidze states.

However, the issue has caused much speculation in Tbilisi. The State Security and Crisis Management Council released a special statement, which reads that Georgia does not intend to send soldiers to Syria, or intend to establish a training base in Georgia.

The statement says that Georgia stands by the international community in terms of fighting against terrorism and this support is demonstrated by Georgia’s large-scale commitment to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.

“As for combating the ‘Islamic State’, Georgia can provide only humanitarian aid to our foreign allies,” the statement reads.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also released a statement, stressing that Georgia, as a strategic partner of the United States and one of the most NATO interoperable countries, is considering ways to contribute to the goals of the anti-IS coalition in the fight against terrorism.

“Alongside [our] international partners and coalition members, various things are under discussion to neutralize the terrorist threats endangering peace and security in the region and its democratic development. None of the options discussed together with our allied countries envisages the deployment of Georgian army units in the war zone. A final decision will be reached at the highest political level,” the ministry states.

Georgia’s contribution to the coalition formed by the United States against IS was discussed in Tbilisi during the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Defense Minister Irakli Alasania stated that Georgia would contribute to the mission, without giving any details of the meeting. Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze also confirmed Georgia’s readiness to support the coalition.