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Georgian officials downplay deal with US over hosting training base

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, September 25
John Hudson, who is a staff writer at Foreign Policy Magazine, said that he accepts responsibility for the accuracy of his article.

“This article includes information gathered from several sources, as well as the Georgian Ambassador to the United States Archil Gegeshidze. He (Gegshidze) told me that Georgia had made this offer,” John Hudson told the Georgian Public Broadcaster on Wednesday.

The managing editor of Foreign Policy, Yochi Dreazen told Tabula on Wednesday that he had edited John Hudson’s article entitled “Georgia Offers to Host Training Camp for Syrian Rebels”.

“We accept responsibility for the accuracy of this material, thus, we are not going to amend any paragraph of this article," Yochi Dreazen said.

The article reads that in a potential boost for the Obama administration, the former Soviet republic of Georgia has offered to host a training facility for the Syrian rebels as part of the U.S.-led war against Islamic State militants in both Syria and Iraq, according to an American administration official.

"[The training center] was something we offered, but is still under consideration," Georgian Ambassador Archil Gegeshidze told Foreign Policy, confirming the U.S. official's remarks.

The potential scale of the Georgia-based training program remains unclear, but Gegeshidze noted that it could host anti-IS fighters from multiple countries, not just Syria.

"It's a counterterrorism training center for any nationality," he said.

Gegeshidze stated that the author of the article quoted him incorrectly and stressed that foreign media also appeared to be misleading. The Foreign Ministry also denied the information and stated that only humanitarian aid might be provided by Georgia in the frame of the anti-IS coalition.

Analyst Khatuna Lagazidze told The Messenger that Georgia’s involvement in the coalition as it was mentioned in the article could result in serious terrorist threats for Georgia. The analyst admits that Georgia will have to and should take part in the coalition’s activities. However, the role should be reasonable and secure.

“We will have to be involved in the process as the North Caucasus has already become a serious incubator of terrorists. We are too close to the region and therefore face very vivid terrorist threats. I believe that a terrorism prevention and research centre should be established in Georgia, where Georgia, Russia, US, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran and other countries will be accepted. All the above mentioned countries and especially Russia are at risk, as its territory has become the incubator for terrorists. The creation of such a centre and common goals will also reduce Russian threats to Georgia and form a security umbrella for the country,” Lagazidze said, stating that the centre will be very helpful for America as the United States will be able to combat terrorism’s roots. Concerning Gegeshidze, she suggested that if Foreign Policy really provides evidence over the confirmation, the ambassador might face problems as his statement might be taken as divulging state secrets.