In a half-hour interview with Rustavi 2 TV on October 4, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili discussed, among others, ongoing Azerbaijani-Armenian clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh and Tbilisi’s official position on the developments.
Underlining Georgia’s neutrality in the conflict, President Zurabishvili said “it is of utmost importance to retain what’s most important for the region, Georgia has always been neutral towards its two neighboring, friendly countries, and it [must] remain so. Whether the economies or the development of all three of us, it all depends on peace and stability,” the President stated.
According to the Georgian President, she plans to hold phone talks with leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan this week. Tbilisi’s key message to the leaders in Baku and Yerevan, President Zurabishvili stated, will be offering a platform for dialogue in the Georgian capital to both parties, and to achieve a ceasefire “to stop casualties.”
President Zurabishvili stated, however, that “today both parties have expressed readiness to address Minsk Group. We should support this. Let’s see when and where the Group could gather, maybe even in Georgia.” President Zurabishvili said that she will reaffirm to both leaders that “we will do everything, and we are ready to do anything, that is acceptable for them, in order to achieve, first of all, de-escalation, ceasefire, and peaceful talks.”
Regarding the possible risks for Georgia during the Nagorno-Karabakh military confrontation, the President underscored her country’s transit role and the potential deterioration of the stability needed for it.
“We are a region that is important in terms of energy transit. [Realizing] our potential is tied to the development of transit, transportation, communications and the Black Sea. It is the biggest risk to lose our key advantage – stability. We have often said that we are an island of democracy and stability in the region, this should be restored,” the President of Georgia stated.
According to President Zurabishvili, “this will not be only in our interests, since Azerbaijani and Armenian economies make use of our transit, both are dependent on it, just like us. This is a risk but also a chance, in reality, we depend on each other, so I cannot see any prospects other than peace.”
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Georgian President also stated that “everyone understands that powers [outside the region] may be interested in things being not in order here,” and added that she reckons “our northern neighbor” – meaning the Russian Federation – to be a such foreign power. In this context, President Zurabishvili highlighted the recently-spread “fake news” as if “we are being friends more with one of the countries than with the other, that we are either helping one or the other.”
President Zurabishvili stated “this is typical disinformation, because it is so important for us to be neutral in this conflict, not to have a disbalance between our two neighbors… if someone portrayed the reality otherwise, it would be very bad for us, bad for the region.”
Lastly, the President assessed the journalist’s question as to whether Georgia would pass Russian troops to Armenia in case of Moscow’s request as a hypothetical question and asserted: “we clearly stated after the National Security Council meeting that permits for military transits – in any ways – are suspended… This is a [preventive step], but the question is hypothetical as of today.”