Georgian PM arrives amid ministry sanctions

Ivanishvili arrives despite foreign ministry decision over visiting dignitaries; tells Peres world must ensure Israel in peace.

GEORGIA’S PRIME MINISTER Bidzina Ivanishvili370 (photo credit: Reuters)
GEORGIA’S PRIME MINISTER Bidzina Ivanishvili370
(photo credit: Reuters)
The world should work together to ensure Israel can live in peace, Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili told President Shimon Peres Monday after arriving in the country for a two-day visit.
Ivanishvili went ahead with his visit despite last week’s decision by Foreign Ministry workers – engaged in a five-month old work dispute – to no longer deal in any manner with the visits of foreign dignitaries.
A number of ministry workers protested outside the President’s Residence against what they said was the use of Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) officials to break the strike and provide logistics for the visit.
As a result of the sanctions, Ivanishvili’s convoy was held up briefly at the airport, and Israel’s envoy to Georgia, Yuval Fuchs, was unable to accompany the prime minister on his trip, the first beyond his immediate neighborhood and Europe since winning elections in October 2012.
Fuchs apologized personally to Ivanishvili and his Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze, who is joining him, for any inconvenience caused by the work sanctions, and for not joining them on the trip. Fuchs said the sanctions did not reflect on the importance Israel attributes to the bilateral ties.
The Georgian leaders said they understood, though admitted they have never heard of this type of thing before.
Ivanishvili, who was met at the airport by Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, is scheduled to meet Monday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Ivanishvili, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post in Tbilisi two weeks ago, said he was interested in developing a “strategic” relationship with Israel, and expressed great interest in attracting Israeli and Jewish businessmen to his country.
He will also take part during his visit in a Georgian-Israeli business forum in Tel Aviv, as well as meet with representatives of the Georgian Jewish community living in Israel.
Among the bilateral issues, the Georgian delegation is expected to raise the issue of starting a process whereby Georgians visiting Israel will no longer require visas, just as Israelis traveling to Georgia do not need visas. The delegation is also expected to brief the Israelis on the ongoing investigation into the failed terrorist attack last year on an Israeli embassy worker in Tbilisi.
In addition to his foreign minister, Ivanishvili was also accompanied by his diaspora, economy and agriculture ministers.
Georgia is in the midst of transition from a presidential to a parliamentary system of government, which is set to be completed in October. In the meantime Ivanishvili is in a transitional “co-habitation” with his fierce political rival, President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Ivanishvili, in his meeting with Peres, said that while the government of Georgia respects all its citizens, it has a special sympathy for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Ivanishvili said he grew up in the midst of a large Jewish community in Tbilisi, and that everyone there lived in a peaceful coexistence.
Peres called Ivanishvili a true friend of the Jewish people and acknowledged how well the Jewish community of Georgia has fared over the centuries, as well as the strong ties that Georgian immigrants to Israel have to their country of birth.

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