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Veteran Israeli president meets youthful Georgian prime minister
By GREER FAY CASHMAN
28/01/2014
Peres and PM Garibashvili aim to enhance relationship between Israel and Georgia with a focus on economics and security.
 
President Shimon Peres, who is a former prime minister of Israel, on Tuesday met with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who at age 32 is young enough to be the grandson of the 90-yearold Peres.

In welcoming Garibashvili, who has been in office since November 2013, Peres said that, as an old politician, he was delighted to welcome so young a politician.

It was a refreshing experience, he said.

Garibashvili responded that it was an honor for him to meet with Peres, and declared that Georgia attaches great importance to its relationship and friendship with Israel and the Jewish people.

Both the president and the prime minister noted that Jews have lived in Georgia for close to 2,600 years and that Georgia is historically the oldest surviving Jewish Diaspora.

It is believed that Jews first came to Georgia following the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezer and the subsequent exile of the Jewish people to Babylon.

Jews were always loved and respected in Georgia and took part in the life and development of the country, said Garibashvili. He noted that the friendship that Georgia feels for its Jewish community has by extension been transferred to Israel.

He had come to once again confirm “that Israel is our friend and strategic partner,” said Garibashvili.

He said that Georgia wants to enhance the existing relationship between the two countries, particularly with regard to economics and security. Building up his country’s economy is a top priority, he said.

Peres said that he is very glad to see Georgia returning to its free spirit after overcoming civil unrest.

The president briefly reviewed the status of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians and said that, while there are “objective difficulties,” there is still “an open window” and both sides have to look at the situation seriously and not postpone making a decision. “We should not miss this opportunity,” he said.

Peres noted that many countries in the Arab world have come to the realization that terrorism, not Israel, is the problem.

Regardless of the difficulties in reaching an accord, Peres said that Israel will continue to make major efforts to make the right decision and bring peace to the region.

Garibashvili said that, even though Georgia is a small country, it too is making a contribution to global peace.
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