Imposing sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine war will not only harm Georgia but also "devastate" its economy, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has said.
He made the observation while addressing the Qatar Economic Forum, Powered by Bloomberg Wednesday,
Garbashvili's government has refused to impose economic sanctions and direct flights from Russia to Georgia resumed last week.
"Not only would we harm Georgia, but we would also devastate our economy and jeopardise the interests of our country and our people if we were to impose any form of economic sanctions on Russia," Garbashvili said.
Interacting with Manus Cranny, Bloomberg Television anchor, the Georgian PM said Europe has not faced a challenge such as the Russia-Ukraine war since the Second World War. "Therefore, this war affects all of us. Let me remind you that Georgia experienced a war in 2008, and we know precisely what it entails. We are aware that approximately 20% of Ukrainian territory is currently occupied by Russia; this is the current status quo. What will happen tomorrow, I don't know, and I can't say. I believe nobody knows."
He noted that there are no signs that the war would end soon and that is the problem. “We also do not witness enough efforts from the international community to take proper measures, encourage consultations and promote peace talks,” he noted.
Garbashvili criticised the international community for not taking action, including sanctions, during the 2008 conflict between his country and Russia.
“Let me go back to the war in 2008. Do you remember if anyone imposed sanctions on Russia because of our war? Where is the logic of ‘Our war is not a war’ but in Ukraine it is'? No one in the world had proper reactions, and I would say adequate reactions, to that war. Well, I have to say that we were quite disappointed that business as usual continued with Russia after the 2008 war," he said. ""The result of that war, a devastating war, is that 20% of our territory was taken over by Russia. Russia built two military bases on our historic lands."
Garibashvili also highlighted the relationship between Georgia and the US, stressing that the latter is an important strategic partner. “We are very thankful for everything America has done for us, as well as Europe. Georgia has its sovereign rights to have its own national interests. And as I explained, we have economic trade relations with Russia, we have 1mn ethnic Georgians, our citizens, who live in Russia. To have flights with Russia is very normal.
"It doesn’t mean that we are engaged in some kind of political consultation. As I said, this is part of economic trade relations... like the European Union does, like America does."
Regarding China, he said: “With China, we have a very good relationship. We have a free trade agreement with China, and we do increase trade, economic ties with China. What China has been trying to do during this crisis is a really wise move because China has been trying to mediate between Ukraine and Russia.
"I would welcome efforts from any country, from any leader, who would encourage peace talks, mediate, negotiate, and who would try to make some efforts to resolve the issue,” the Georgian prime minister added.
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in conversation. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam