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First public interview of newly appointed head of the SSS

By Tsotne Pataraia
Thursday, October 24
Grigol Liluashvili, head of the Georgian State Security Service (SSS), gave a lengthy interview to Imedi TV, where he talked about the issues regarding national security. Mostly he focused on problems such as relations with Russia, terrorism and the current situation in Syria.

According to the head of SSS pursuing a pragmatic foreign and domestic policy is the only formula to remain stable and at the same time integration into the Euro-Atlantic space, which enhances the security of Georgia, being the only precondition of peace for the country.

Liluashvili thinks it should not be considered a betrayal if there are any meeting and communication with the policymakers of the Russian Federation:

“If we do not take our interests into account, no other country can do it for us. Accordingly, if we do not learn to speak to the enemy, I think we will have less chance of achieving de-occupation. We certainly communicate at IPRM meetings within the scope of our service in the presence of our foreign partners, the international community. We have this dialogue, but we are doing it to ensure that security measures are taken and crime is prevented. These are local meetings. If politicians decide to speak to relevant Russian officials at the highest political level, this will certainly ease the process of moving towards de-occupation,” said Liluashvili.

Grigol Liluashvili considers fighting against terrorism as one of the topics that can be used for having points of contact with Russia:

“Terrorism is a threat to every country, regardless of it being an occupant or victim, it is of equally harmful to everyone. Accordingly, in this context we can find some common dots with Russia, for the equal interest of both Russia and Georgia in peace within the Caucasus, ”noted Liluashvili.

While discussing relations with Russia, the head of the SSS also focused on tourism and culture.

"One of the tools for security can be to have as much discussion, more educational programs as necessary to combat phobias. Russophobia is not a problem for us, because people are quite open to huge tourist flows coming from Russia. There is no aggression among the people towards the Russian nation, we have aggression and we do not naturally agree with the Russian government's policy towards Georgia,” told Liluashvili to Imedi TV.

The head of the SSS referred to recent developments in Syria as a danger to state security since combat operations are carried out 1000-1500 km from the national border. According to him, Turkey is Georgia's main partner and if it becomes the target of economic sanctions, it will have negative implications on the Georgian economy:

"If we look at the region in light of the ongoing turmoil, everything can affect both the country's economic development and other processes. By the way, if our main partner and a big neighbor, a great friend Turkey falls under economic sanctions, that too will create problematic factors for the economy. Since trade turnover, currency exchange rates are largely closely integrated with Turkish business entities and various structures. Consequently, economic developments are also a major challenge in recent days,” stated Liluashvili.

However, as Liluashvili pointed out, there is a growing risk that former soldier of ISIL held in camps will find themselves back into the ranks of the "Islamic State":

“In the context of pure security, there is an increased risk that the captives in the camps will still be among the ranks of the 'Islamic State' and, therefore, in the wake of the strengthened 'Islamic State', there may be some processes in Georgia as well. The recruitment process is the most dangerous. We are watching it very carefully,” the head of the SSS stated.

Following Liluashvili, the main utility of Georgia for such actions is its location and is used as a transit country:

“When the fighters move, our country can be used for this movement. We exert maximum control in this direction. The problem is compounded by the fact that potential fighters may also be representatives of the EU countries holding European passports. Well, you know, we have a very liberal policy - visa-free travel with these countries, so we have a lot of work to do in this stream,” added Liluashvili.

Georgian Parliament approved Grigol Liluashvili as head of the State Security Service on October 17. His candidacy was voted on without plenary sitting. Liluashvili was supported by 85 MPs, 8 were against.