Official visit to Georgia

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Belarus and Georgia can create a solid foundation for future relations based on strong trade and economic ties, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Margvelashvili in Tbilisi on 23 April.

“There are no political contradictions between us. I am grateful to the former president and to you for supporting us in the West,” the Belarusian head of state said.

“We should have met with you in this legendary city and country long ago. Unfortunately, I have never been to Tbilisi before. Perhaps, I should have visited this city long ago because our people have always respected the Georgian people,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The Belarusian President stressed that his visit to Georgia began with the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that he did it to commemorate the victims of World War Two and the Great Patriotic War. “Thousands of Georgians took part in the liberation of Belarus. Hundreds or even thousands of Georgians died in Belarus; therefore, I have paid a tribute of respect to all Georgians, all Soviet soldiers who died during the war in the run-up to the important date,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also thanked Giorgi Margvelashvili for hospitality.

The President of Georgia, in turn, noted that Belarus and Georgia share a good past to build even better future.

Giorgi Margvelashvili named the visit of the Belarusian leader to Georgia as significant for the two countries and bilateral relations. “I am glad you are here. I am confident that your visit will serve as a basis for strengthening the relations we have today,” he said.

“Your attitude to Georgia and Georgian people is an excellent foundation for developing relations,” the President of Georgia believes.

“I think that in many aspects the relations between Belarus and Georgia can set an example for other countries. Today we embark on a good and interesting trip to the future, our future cooperation,” Giorgi Margvelashvili noted.

The heads of state shared opinions regarding urgent international and regional issues of mutual interest, discussed the wide range of topics and prospects of Belarus-Georgia relations.

In particular, Belarus and Georgia agreed that the bilateral trade will make up $200 million in the future. “There are intentions, certain trade contracts between our countries. It means that we needed to organize this meeting to ensure manifold increase in our bilateral trade,” the Belarusian head of state said.

He emphasized that although in 2014 the bilateral trade reached $64 million, it was the same as in 2013. “Of course, this is not the volume that can suit us. Therefore, our talks focused on the development of trade and economic relations between the countries,” the Belarusian leader remarked. He reminded that in spite of Georgia’s withdrawal from the CIS, the two countries have preserved the free trade regime.

The presidents of Belarus and Georgia agreed that industrial cooperation will be the main priority of bilateral relations. “It is easy to trade, but it is more difficult to set up joint ventures to make necessary products and sell them all over the world. But it is feasible,” the Belarusian leader believes. The sides agreed to implement pilot projects to establish assembly plants for Belarusian elevators, tractors of various modifications in Georgia.

“We will start with that. And I am sure that we will implement these projects in a year or two,” the Belarusian head of state said. “I am convinced that if our governments work efficiently and implement our agreements, the contribution of Belarus to the development of Georgia will be obvious and unquestionable. We want to help our closest and dearest friends, our brothers,” he added.

Belarus is also ready to meet the demand of Georgian partners for agricultural and municipal equipment, passenger transport, medications and farm produce. There are concrete agreements in these areas. The presidents of Belarus and Georgia agreed that the governments of the two countries will work out concrete projects that will help advance the bilateral trade and economic potential.

Belarus is ready to share its best agricultural practices with Georgia.

“The President of Georgia has showed interest in the adoption on our practices and I have promised that we would do it, starting from the development of a prototype of an agricultural cooperative in Georgia’s conditions to the solution of food security issues,” the Belarusian leader said.

According to Giorgi Margvelashvili, Georgia is interested not only in trade and economic relations, but also in the adoption of the best practices of Belarus where its own farm produce makes up 80% of products on the domestic market. In turn, Georgia, known for its low corruption level and a high rating in starting and doing business and in trade with Europe, opens up for Belarus’ investment, the President of Georgia stressed.

Speaking about political relations, Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned with satisfaction the constructive level of interaction in such international negotiations platforms as the OSCE and the Eastern Partnership Initiative between the two countries. At the meeting the heads of state also discussed the opening of the Belarusian diplomatic mission in Georgia. “We are also eager to enhance inter-parliamentary dialogue between our countries, we expect that the MPs of Belarus and Georgia will prepare legislative initiatives aimed at the stimulation of industrial cooperation,” the Belarusian leader said.

“Belarus always views Georgia as a friendly and close country. The development of Belarus-Georgia political and economic relations meets the interests of the two countries. Georgia is a potentially promising trade an economic partner in Transcaucasia for us,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

A set of 15 documents expanding the Belarus-Georgia cooperation was signed after the talks.

The Presidents signed a joint statement.

The governments of the two countries concluded cooperation agreements in such areas as tourism, intellectual property protection, on double taxation avoidance and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income and on capital, in customs affairs, crime prevention, and on readmission.

The ministries of foreign affairs of Belarus and Georgia signed a cooperation protocol and the Justice Ministries inked a memorandum of understanding.

The sides also concluded cooperation agreements in healthcare, medical science, and education. A similar agreement was signed between the chambers of commerce and industry of the two countries.

The Belarusian Industry Ministry signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Georgian Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and the Georgian Agriculture Ministry. The National Academy of Sciences of Belarus signed scientific and technical cooperation agreements with the Georgian National Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

At the meeting with mass media representatives Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that Belarus and Georgia will find such scenarios of cooperation that will suit partners in the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union.

“We have certain obligations in the Eurasian Economic Union; Georgia has certain obligations after the signing of the association agreement with the European Union, but they do not contradict our relations,” the Belarusian leader said. According to the President of Belarus, if these big unions need more time to reach an agreement, the countries which are the members of the these associations will easily do it.

“There can be no obstacles here. We are sensible nations, sensible states. We will devise the scheme and scenarios of cooperation which will suit our partners in the EEU and the EU. You can be sure of that,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized. The Belarusian head of state believes that the countries need to use the benefits of Belarus’ participation in the EEU and Georgia’s implementation of the association agreement with the EU.

In his words, there are no obstacles in developing bilateral cooperation. Belarus’ membership in the Eurasian Economic Union and the implementation of Georgia’s association agreement with the European Union will provide new opportunities for investment and business, new potential markets. “New unions mean new opportunities, not new barriers,” Giorgi Margvelashvili stressed.

The Belarusian President believes that a lack of understanding between Georgia and Russia at the political level can be overcome.

"After all the turmoil and even the war, after let’s say the conflict between Georgia and Russia, it would have been wise to build the relations in a softer way and maybe to refrain from some steps," the Belarusian leader said.

The President and I are realists and we agreed to draw a line, to look into the future and see what can be done to normalize the relations between Georgia and the Russian Federation, and to strengthen ties with Belarus, the Belarusian head of state said.

"I think that soon we will be able to find at least one answer to a small question what step should be made to not only stop the rhetoric but to reconcile the positions of the states and to start living peacefully in one family as we once did. After all, there are no contradictions between the Georgian people, the Belarusians, and the Russians. There is a lack of understanding at the political level. It can be overcome. But it is necessary to set specific objectives and to make concrete steps,” said the President of Belarus.

Later Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili, laid a wreath at the Memorial of the Heroes Killed for the Unity of Georgia.

On 23 April the President of Belarus also met with Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Archbishop of Mtskheta and Tbilisi, Metropolitan Bishop of Bichvinta and Tskhum-Abkhazia Ilia II.

“You have just told me face to face that you’d been waiting for us for a long time. I thank you for waiting not for President Lukashenko, but for a representative of the Belarusian nation, the kindest nation there is, one can say, a nation of holy men, a peace-loving nation that has the kindest feelings towards Georgian brothers,” the Belarusian President stressed.

The Belarusian head of state noted: “Our nations have always been close.”

“You are our brothers. The stance we have maintained with regard to global problems of development of the Georgian nation, its faith, Orthodox belief has turned out to be useful. We don’t regret it although, you must be aware of it, it’s been hard for us,” the Belarusian head of state noted.

“We will do our best for the Georgian nation to turn over the pages of recent history and forget these days as soon as possible. I am saddened by the fact that we, Orthodox nations, had to see these pages,” the Belarus President said.

“But we should also look into the future. We have reached an agreement with your leaders that in the near future we will do our best in order to overcome these events as a Slavonic nation and a brotherly nation of the Georgian people. I am confident that we can do it. We will do it. I can assure you of that,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

The Belarus President conveyed the warmest wishes on behalf of the Belarusian people.

“Remember that we are ready to help you as soon as you ask for it. We have always been together, the history says so. Today nobody is allowed and no one can destroy this unity. We are brotherly nations. We have been together and will always be together. I would like you to always remember that,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that any cooperation is based on economy. “Today our trade turnover is as small as $65 million. It is a laughable figure, a trade turnover that can be achieved by a medium-sized business. Within these two days we have secured agreements with your businessmen to the tune of $200 million. Contracts have been signed for specific arrangements,” said the Belarusian head of state. “We sat at the negotiation table and vowed to secure this trade turnover over the period of this year and the next year and hence the prosperity of the two nations,” the Belarusian President remarked.

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that an anniversary of the Great Victory will be celebrated soon. “I am very pleased that we start honoring our kind of people with his holy and ancient land,” the Belarusian leader said.

Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Archbishop of Mtskheta and Tbilisi and Metropolitan Bishop of Bichvinta and Tskhum-Abkhazia Ilia II noted that people in Georgia recognize the profound importance of the Belarus President’s visit.

“We have heard a lot of good things about you and are glad to welcome you in Georgia where you can share your experience with our leaders. We know Belarus well and we know its history, culture, and the accomplishments secured recently under your leadership,” the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church said.

“I think your visit will contribute to stronger cooperation between our nations and states,” he remarked.

“We live in a difficult age of globalization. Orthodox nations should preserve their culture, faith, and traditions and pass them on to the next generation,” the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia is convinced.

“Georgia is living through a difficult period: the territorial integrity has been compromised. Those are deep wounds on the body of Georgia and the heart of every Georgian,” he said.

In his words, people in Georgia think highly of the work done by the Belarusian head of state and Aleksandr Lukashenko’s achievements for the sake of the Belarusian people. “I think your visit is a portent of peace. I am thankful that it will bring good fruits to our states. I would like the visit to start tight cooperation and a brotherly union of our nations,” he remarked.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also visited the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi.

On 24 April President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko visited the Autonomous Republic of Adjara where he met with Head of Government of Adjara Archil Khabadze.

The Belarusian head of state said that Belarus and Adjara can enhance cooperation in machine-building, construction industry, tourism. “I believe that we will find our niche and you will never have claims,” the Belarusian head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that Belarus has well-developed machine-building. The Belarusian side is ready to provide all kinds of services in the construction industry, supply all kinds of equipment, from farm machines to municipal equipment.

The President also stressed that Adjara is the most advanced region in Georgia and in the entire region. The republic generates more than $1 billion of Georgia’s GDP. “The fact that you have made a breakthrough in the tourism industry is amazing. Today it is a calm and comfortable place. Of course, it will attract tourists,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. The President noted that the inflow of Belarusian tourists to Georgia, including Adjara, has recently increased several times. In his opinion, the direct flight from Belarus to Georgia makes a contribution to it.

“We are glad to see that you make serious achievements. We are grateful to you for your sensible approach, especially in difficult times. Adjara did not pursue its ambitions, but helped the Georgian state develop their land. It takes six month to separate from each other, but it will take years to improve relations,” the Belarusian head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that during the visit to Georgia Belarusian MPs have studied the region. Now they can offer certain cooperation avenues to the colleagues from Adjara.

Archil Khabadze, in turn, said that Adjara expects Belarusian investment in the tourism industry and is ready to give land parcels for Belarusian investment, to Belarusian companies where they can build big tourist facilities.

The head of government stressed that Adjara cooperates closely with Belarus. A number of joint projects are in progress. The republic purchases Belarusian agriculture and road construction equipment. He proposed to promote closer cooperation in agriculture.

The Belarusian President also took part in the ceremony to sign the agreement on the establishment of partnership relations between Brest and Batumi.

The President of Georgia also arrived in Georgia. Aleksandr Lukashenko and Giorgi Margvelashvili talked to mass media representatives.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that there are no political issues between Belarus and Georgia. According to the Belarusian head of state, the two countries need to create a solid foundation for bilateral relations. "These are trade and economy. This is what is important," he said.

The Belarusian leader that Belarus is going to open the embassy in Georgia within a year. Belarus makes a decision to open the embassy when trade and economic relations between countries reach a high level. Trade and economic relations are number one priority for the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry is, first of all, in charge of foreign economic ties, the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that over the past two days Belarus and Georgia have concluded agreements which will help increase the bilateral trade to $200 million. Therefore, it is necessary to open the embassy in Georgia to enhance diplomatic, political, trade and economic relations, the President remarked.

Giorgi Margvelashvili, in turn, said that President of Belarusian Aleksandr Lukashenko is a true friend who respects Georgia, its statehood and sovereignty.

Giorgi Margvelashvili emphasized that the Georgian side is ready to do its best to develop peaceful cooperation with Belarus. In his words, the fact that Belarus is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union and Georgia implements association agreements with the European Union creates opportunities for the countries, not barriers. “We both respect our choice. We are doing our best to get the most positive result for the development of our relations,” the President of Georgia said.

The President of Georgia praises the role of the Belarusian leader in the post-Soviet space. “Minsk is the place where many processes are regulated by peaceful means. President Lukashenko is a person who has done a lot for our neighbors. I am confident that friendship and partnership with such person will help Georgia and the entire region make a big step forward,” he stressed.

The official visit of Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko was over on 24 April.