Warm ties between Israel and Georgia

Relations return to level seen before S.Ossetia crisis.

Sofia Nizharadze 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Sofia Nizharadze 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Monday night’s performance in Jerusalem by Georgian superstar Sofia Nizharadze is testament both to the close cultural ties between Israel and Georgia, and to the fact that two years after the Russian- Georgian South Ossetia War, Israeli-Georgian ties are as close as they were before the conflict, Georgian Ambassador Vakhtang Jaoshvili said Monday.
The war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008 put Israeli in a bind, since while for historic, emotional and sentimental reasons Israel’s tendency was to back the pro-American, pro-Western Georgians, it did not want to do anything to disturb its delicate relationship with Russia.
It also didn’t want the fact that it had sold some $300 million to $500 million of arms over the previous decade to Georgia, and that ex-IDF officers had trained Georgian soldiers, to harm ties with Russia.
Jaoshvili told The Jerusalem Post that he did not feel the war, or the way Israel tried to balance its interests, caused any tensions between the countries or in any way harmed a relationship that he described as very close.
He said Israeli investments in Georgia have returned to their pre-war level and that Israeli tourism to the country is increasing, though the precise numbers won’t be known until the end of the summer.
Currently, he said, there are six weekly scheduled flights to Georgia, for which tickets are hard to come by. There are also a number of charter flights each week.
The ambassador refused to discuss the level of military or security cooperation between the two countries.
Jaoshvili said that Georgia appreciated Israeli support in various international forums, and understood why Israel abstained in a General Assembly vote last year calling for the “right of return” of refugees who fled the Abkhazia and South Ossetia territories after the Russians moved into those areas.
“We understand very well the situation in Israel, and understand how delicate the refugee issue is for Israel,” he said, adding that this was not a source of friction between the two nations.
“There is no tension between Georgia and Israel,” he said.