On November 1-2, Georgia’s Black Sea city of Batumi is hosting the Defense and Security Conference, bringing together hundreds of Georgian and foreign officials, experts, civil society and media to discuss issues of regional and global stability and security challenges.
In their opening remarks, President Giorgi Margvelashvili and Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze hailed Georgia’s progress on its European and Euro-Atlantic integration and spoke on challenges emanating from Russian occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.
The President then stressed Russia remains “an impeding” factor for Georgia’s western integration. “The Russian Federation carried out an offensive war against Georgia in 2008; It was the Russian Armed Forces – the regular army – that crossed the Georgian border and occupied 20% of our homeland,” he stated.
Margvelashvili then said, that what is now described as “hybrid warfare” was “tested” in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region in 1990s to hamper the country’s sovereign choice, and that the Russo-Georgian war of 2008 was a continuation of Moscow’s aggressive steps against Georgia.
President Margvelashvili also encouraged the international community to unite against Russian propaganda.
He also used the opportunity to highlight the need of having a collective decisive-making body, echoing his earlier criticism of the authorities for abolishing the National Security Council, which is to be dissolved upon new President’s inauguration.
“By the end of the year we will have a new President, a new constitution and we will not have the Security Council … It is necessary to have an institution where top officials can make evidence-based political decisions, which, if necessary, will become direct instructions to the Defense Ministry, General Staff and other bodies,” he said.
Bakhtadze spoke on the Russian occupation as well, saying presence of Russian armed forces in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions “poses threat not only to Georgia but stability and security of the region as a whole.”
“Due to increasing militarization of the regions, depopulation has been deepening, the population has been decreasing dramatically,” the Prime Minister said. He also added that barbed wires isolate families and violate their fundamental rights, while “cases of abduction, inhuman treatment, torture and murder continue.”
According to the Prime Minister, Georgia’s response to all of the challenges is “peace, development and unwavering integration” with NATO and the European Union.
Mamuka Bakhtadze then called on the international community to be “unanimous and principled” in upholding Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In his address, Prime Minister Bakhtadze also said U.S. Security Advisor John Bolton’s recent visit to Georgia was be a step forward in bilateral relations, including in the field of security and defense. He also thanked U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis for hailing Georgia as “one of NATO’s most steadfast partners.”