Irakli Garibashvili says Georgian citizens and the nation’s economy would suffer if Tbilisi sanctioned one of its main trading partners.
Doha, Qatar – The Georgian prime minister has said that imposing sanctions on Russia would “destroy” Tbilisi’s economy and “harm the interests” of Georgian citizens.
Russia is among Georgia’s top trading partners, but the two countries have long shared a tense relationship.
Georgia’s annual trade turnover with Russia is “less than $1 billion,” Irakli Garibashvili said at the Qatar Economic Forum in Doha on Wednesday. “This is ridiculous, isn’t it? Those 1,000 million dollars could not affect the Russian economy.
“For comparison: the European Union trades with Russia in just four days, as much as we trade in a year. Where is the logic when we are called upon to introduce sanctions against Russia?
He also drew comparisons between the international response to the 2008 Russo-Georgian war and the conflict in Ukraine, saying: “Did anyone impose sanctions on Russia over our war? No one in the world made a formal reaction.
“Where is the logic of ‘Our war is not a war’ but in Ukraine it is?”
In the August 2008 war, which lasted a few days, Russia invaded Ukraine, eventually seizing control of two breakaway regions: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Since the conflict in Ukraine began, Georgia, a former Soviet nation, has played a balancing act between its neighbor and its desire to join the European Union.
When Russia ordered a partial mobilization last year, thousands of unwilling men flocked to Georgia for refuge.
Earlier this month, Tbilisi lifted a ban on flights to Russia following a decision by Moscow.
But the two countries have not shared diplomatic relations since the 2008 war.
“Georgia is in an extremely difficult situation because of our geography, because of the ongoing occupation,” Garibashvili said.
While public support for Ukraine is strong in Georgia, critics of the prime minister and his ruling Kartuli Otsneba (Georgia Dream party) have suggested they are pro-Russian.
Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili and the EU condemned the decision on the flights, at a time when the bloc’s airspace remains closed to Russian planes in response to their invasion of Ukraine.
“This step raises concerns in terms of Georgia’s path towards the EU and its commitment to align itself with the EU on foreign policy,” EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano said.
In Doha, Garibashvili defended the move to restart flights.
“We did not say that we would stop economic relations with Russia… many countries make flights with Russia,” Garibashvili said.
“This war affects us all politically. We know that today about 20 percent of the Ukrainian territory is occupied by Russia. This is the status quo today.
“Unfortunately, we did not see any sign that this war is going to end anytime soon. This is the problem.”
With reporting from Hafsa Adil in Doha.
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