Saudi-Georgia ties take new heights

Georgians celebrate 100th anniversary of first republic


TODAY, May 26, 2018, is a historic date for Georgia: The country is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Georgia’s First Democratic Republic. In the last few decades Georgia has been keen to promote democratic values, protect human rights, implement economic reforms and keep transparency up to its highest level.

Exactly 100 years ago, Georgia’s First Democratic Republic was born with fundamental values at its core such as devotion to democracy, national development, just governance, absolute rule of law and the people's aspirations.

On this momentous occasion, it is important to note that Saudi-Georgian relations have developed rapidly in the last three years thanks to the opening of the Georgian Embassy in Riyadh in 2015. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in May 27, 1994, thus next year Saudi Arabia and Georgia will celebrate the 25th anniversary of these relations.

Georgia and Saudi Arabia support each other at international organizations. In 2016, the first document was signed between two countries, namely the General Agreement regarding the cooperation between Georgia and Saudi Arabia.

Trade relations have improved as well. Foreign direct investments to Georgia from the Kingdom have exceeded $100 million while more and more Saudi businessmen are showing interest to visit Georgia to see investment opportunities there. There were high level visits between the ministries of Finance and Agriculture of both countries. In April 2017, the minister of agriculture of Georgia visited Saudi Arabia and in March 2018 the country's minister of finance came to Riyadh.

There has been mutual visits between the heads of parliament and members of friendship groups of Georgia and Saudi Arabia. Firstly, the speaker of Parliament of Georgia visited Kingdom in March 2016 and in November the following year, the speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council visited Georgia.

The relations in the defense field and military cooperation are developing rapidly as well. In April 2017, Georgia’s deputy defense minister came to Saudi Arabia. In October of the same year Saudi Chief of Staff visited Batumi, Georgia, to take part in a defense conference.

“Developing strong relations with Saudi Arabia, as well as other GCC countries, is a top priority for us, especially since the establishment of the Embassy in Riyadh,” said George Janjgava, Georgia's ambassador to the Kingdom. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council visited Tbilisi in February 2017.

As for tourism, up to 60,000 Saudi tourists visited Georgia last year. This was a remarkable increase compared to 2014 when the number of Saudi tourists was only 5,000.

The first quarter of 2018 saw a 58 percent increase in Saudi tourists compared to the same quarter of 2017. From June 2018, Flynas will start operating direct flights from the three largest cities of the Kingdom — Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam — to Tbilisi with 3 weekly flights from each city. In 2016-2017 summer charter flights were operated by the Georgian air carrier Airzena.

There is a cooperation with the Ministry of Haj and Umrah in order to facilitate the participation of Georgian pilgrims in the annual Haj.

In order to promote positive relations with Muslim countries, from Feb. 1, 2018, the Georgian ambassador to the Kingdom was appointed as a special representative of Georgia to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Finally, the Kingdom's Foreign Ministry announced that it plans to open Saudi Arabia's embassy in Tbilisi in May 2018. The Georgian side has already issued permission to the embassy opening and is keen on providing all necessary assistance to the Saudi ministry. — SG