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Prime Minister of Georgia Addresses 'Inconsistent' International Responses to Conflicts at Qatar Economic Forum

By Liza Mchedlidze
Thursday, May 25, 2023
The Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Gharibashvili voiced his concerns regarding the inconsistent international responses to conflicts during a panel discussion held at the annual economic forum in Qatar. He specifically drew attention to the 2008 war in Georgia and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Gharibashvili pointed out that following the 2008 war, both the United States and Europe maintained regular business relations with Russia and pointed out the lack of substantial international sanctions during the 2008 war in Georgia and questioned the logic behind such inconsistent responses. He highlighted the disparity between how the conflict in Georgia was perceived compared to the war in Ukraine, raising the question of why different conflicts are treated differently.

The PM emphasized the potential negative consequences for Georgia if bilateral economic sanctions were imposed on Russia. He expressed concerns about the potential collapse of Georgia's economy and the harm it would cause to the Georgian people.

"Georgia's economy will collapse, and we will harm our people if we impose bilateral economic sanctions on Russia. As you know, we had a war in 2008. Do you remember anyone who imposed sanctions against Russia during that war? No one. No one in the world had the right or adequate reaction. So, my question is: where is the logic? Our war is not considered a war while the war in Ukraine is? I must express our deep disappointment that it was business as usual after the 2008 war with Russia. Despite the destructive nature of that war, Russia continues to occupy 20 percent of our country's territory, establishing two military bases on our historic land, and recognizing the so-called independence of our historical regions. This occupation persists." Prime Minister said.

When questioned about whether Georgia, under the circumstances of non-imposing sanctions, poses a threat to the European integration process, Prime Minister Gharibashvili referred to the "second front", a term frequently mentioned by 'Georgian Dream'.

In response to the moderator's question, Prime Minister Gharibashvili said that the Ukrainian side has publicly expressed a desire to see a 'second front' in Georgia. Gharibashvili highlighted that Georgia has already experienced enough wars, including a civil war and the 2008 conflict with Russia, since gaining independence. He emphasized the challenges faced by a small nation with a population of 4 million directly engaging in a war with Russia.

"Ukrainian friends may have different expectations. They have publicly stated their desire to see a second front in Georgia. We have already experienced enough warfare - after gaining independence, we faced two wars in the 90s: a civil war and, later, the 2008 conflict with Russia. As a small nation with a population of 4 million people, we directly engaged in war with Russia," responded the Prime Minister to the moderator.

Another topic discussed at the forum was the restoration of flights between Georgia and Russia, which Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili emphasized as an integral part of the trade. The moderator inquired whether Georgia's decision to resume flights was causing annoyance among its allies. The moderator also referred to a statement from the US State Department that was previously made, expressing concern over the resumption of flights between Georgia and Russia.

"First and foremost, America is a highly valued strategic partner for Georgia, and we deeply appreciate everything that America has done for us. We are also grateful to Europe. Georgia, as a sovereign nation, possesses the right to pursue its own national interests. As I explained earlier, we have economic and trade relations with Russia. Additionally, there is a significant Georgian diaspora of one million people residing in Russia, making direct flights between our countries a common occurrence. However, it is important to note that these flights do not imply any political consultations with Russia. As I previously mentioned, they are purely part of our economic and trade interactions, akin to how the EU and America engage with Russia," stated Gharibashvili.