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Conscription annulled from 2017

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, June 28
Georgia’s Minister of Defence has signed a document that annuls mandatory military conscription from 2017 ,as Georgia “doesn’t need people who are forcibly called for military service”.

Minister Tinatin Khidasheli said this to Georgian media when she summarised her one year's service as Defence Minister on June 27.

Khidasheli said the Ministry of Defence planned to empower contract-based military service instead of relying on mandatory recruiting.

She stressed that the Ministry had restored contract-based service in 2015 after a two-year suspension and in 2015-2016 the body signed such contracts with 1.000 people. She said the Ministry planned the same for 2017.

Speaking about what she believed the major achievements of the Ministry under her leadership had been, she named the Georgia-NATO Noble Partner military exercise this year, providing more openness in the Ministry, re-establishment of the contract-based military service, the formation of the West, East and Air Commands of Georgia, steps taken to decrease the level of bureaucracy in the Ministry, purchasing Georgian meat for the Georgian Army that caused a 40 million GEL boost for Georgia's economy instead of spending money on foreign frozen meat.

Khidasheli stressed the Ministry planned to continue the practice of buying domestic food products and intended to purchase Georgian chicken from the middle of July.

“We will try to increase domestic produce purchases for our soldiers to 90 percent of all rations,” Khidasheli said.

Minister also mentioned the Government and business partnership in support of Georgian soldiers and their families. In this context she stressed the importance of the campaign “Thanks for Your Service” and the Bank of Georgia’s Army Cards, through which about 20 local companies offered various aspects of support to Georgian soldiers and their families.

The Minister also highlighted the importance of providing more financial support to the families of deceased soldiers, and increased salaries and special allowances for active servicemen.

Speaking about Georgia-NATO relations, the Minister stressed the importance of boosting Georgia’s self-defence capabilities through the NATO Warsaw Summit planned on July 8-9 in Poland.

Khidashheli named three key directions that helped Georgia’s security.

She said the number one task for the Government of Georgia was introducing instruments that would increase Georgia’s self-defence capabilities, such as the Georgia-France deal on the purchase of air-defence weapons.

The Minister also stressed the Black Sea Safety concept of NATO. Khidasheli said after the annexation of Crimea, NATO decided to provide more efforts towards Black Sea Safety, and in this context Georgia would play one of the initial roles. The Minister said the component would be especially important as Georgia does not have - and will not have - a navy for a long time due to lack of finances. She highlighted the Black Sea Safety direction would fill the gap for the country.

The third direction the Minister stressed upon was a trilateral format between Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan that aimed to ensure the safety of the region's gas and oil pipelines. The Minister stressed that this also boosts Georgia’s transit role.

Answering The Messenger's first question as to how the UK’s leaving the EU can influence the upcoming NATO summit and Georgia, the Minister answered that the current situation in the EU would influence foreign policy in general but it would not affect either Georgia’s progress towards NATO nor Georgia’s visa liberalisation issues with the EU.

The Messenger’s second question concerned Georgian soldiers alleged participating in the rape of minors in the Central Africa Republic, as according to a report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “three girls believed they were raped by Georgian soldiers.”

Khidasheli answered that the investigation was over on the issue and Georgia would demand pardon from the high tribune for the UN for the unfair and ungrounded accusations.

As to why Georgian soldiers had been mentioned in the first place, the Minister said she had her own view but would refrained from voicing it. However, she said the victims told the investigation they were raped by the soldiers “who spoke a strange language which wasn’t French”.

“And despite the fact there are many other soldiers in the mission, someone concluded they were Georgians. We will demand a pardon for this,” Khidasheli told The Messenger.