During the official visit to Israel by Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibanshvili, the first meeting of the Israel-Georgia Joint Economic Commission was held, headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Georgian Foreign Minister Dr. Maia Panjikidze. In the course of the meeting they discussed areas of trade and economy with the aim of strengthening ties between the two countries. Following the meeting, the foreign ministers signed a memorandum of understanding establishing the framework of the commission.
Following are the statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili at the start of their meeting in Jerusalem:
Prime Minister Netanyahu: "Prime Minister, welcome to Israel. I understand this is your first visit outside the immediate vicinity of Georgia. I take that as a sign of genuine friendship between us. And it’s an enduring and long friendship.
The Jewish community in Georgia I think dates back thousands of years. It’s made important contributions to Georgia and it’s made important contributions to Israel, the Jews who’ve come from Georgia. So this is a natural bridge. And in addition we have a natural sympathy with Georgia that seeks to establish a prosperous and secure future for its people. We think we can do that together.
Today our Foreign Minister has signed an agreement on a joint economic commission. We have every area to cooperate in - technology and water, agriculture, education, everything. And we are open to further this cooperation in all fields. We’ve been doing that, we’ll continue to do that. I’m sure your visit enhances that. That is part of our quest to achieve security, prosperity and peace.
When I say peace, Prime Minister, I mean real peace. The peace we expect with our Palestinian neighbours is one in which they finally recognize the right of Israel to exist as the Jewish state, the state of the Jewish people. After all, we’ve only been here, about 4,000 years. So we expect that reciprocity.
Yet I’m concerned that in the Palestinian press we’ve had continual references to Nazi Germany, comparing Israel and Israel’s leaders to Nazis, saying that we carry Nazi genes. This is a way of poisoning the atmosphere for peace. It must stop. This whole incitement against Israel must cease if we’re to have the genuine peace that we deserve and our Palestinian neighbours deserve as well.
I know that this is your interest too, and we should discuss that. But most importantly what we should do is focus on how we can increase our friendship and cooperation for the benefit of the people of Georgia and for the benefit of the people of Israel. So welcome to Jerusalem. I hope to see you again many, many times."
Georgian PrimeMinister Garibashvili: "Prime Minister, I would like to thank you for such a warm reception and hospitality. We will have a very important meeting today and we’re going to discuss current issues of bilateral cooperation as well as issues of regional and international security.
Today we will have a first sitting of the Joint Economic Commission and the sides will sign two document: the MOU and the outcomes of the Commission meeting. The Commission will serve the purpose of advancing our trade and economic cooperation.
We strive to build a favorable ground for full expansion of bilateral trade relations worldwide and therefore we attach special importance to the discussions toward a free trade agreement between the State of Israel and Georgia. By signing the association agreement, including deep and comprehensive free trade area until August 2014, our country will enter a very important and comprehensive phase of its relations within the European Union paving the way towards deeper economic integration and boosting investment into it. And this will make Georgia a very attractive trade and economic partner for Israel as well.
These intensified bilateral ties and enhanced people-to-people contacts are based on a logical continuation of our 26 centuries of exemplary friendship between the Jewish and Georgian people. I remember our history. The Jewish people first came to Georgia after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BC. Since then Georgia has become your second home, where they were accepted, loved, respected and made part of the Georgian [unclear]. And this will continue and we’ll make sure that we strengthen this relationship.
I also would like to take this opportunity and specifically mention that yesterday the world commemorated the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. And this commemoration strengthens the efforts to raise the awareness about the Holocaust around the world. The horrible Holocaust has also touched our people. And it remains part of our collective memory. One of the known examples is the tragic fate of a prominent Georgian priest who lived in Poland during the war and was imprisoned and killed in the concentration camp of Auschwitz for helping Jewish families during the persecutions. We are always proud to say that in Georgia, anti-Semitism has been an unknown phenomenon through our history and this will be forever.
Once again, Prime Minister, thank you for this hospitality and I’m sure we will have a very productive meeting and I’m sure that in the coming years and the coming future our relations will be on a substantially higher level. Once again thank you."
President Shimon Peres held a diplomatic working meeting with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili
President Peres welcomed Prime Minister Garibashvili and said, "I'm delighted to see you here, the Prime Minister of Georgia, which is a very dear country to us. We are now celebrating 2600 years of friendship. It was great to see Georgia coming back to herself, at her best full of hope and contribution."
Addressing the current situation in the Middle East, President Peres said, "You are coming to us at a time of decision, it is not simple and there are objective difficulties. On the other hand it's an open window and we are taking it very seriously, we must not postpone. Peace is both our heritage and our strategy. We know it's not simple but we will continue to make major efforts to reach the right conclusion and bring peace to this part of the region. We must not let history gallop past and lose this opportunity. There are many in the Arab worlds who already know that we are not the problem, the real problems are terror and division and that has nothing to do with us. Terror is today the greatest problem for many countries in the Middle East."
Prime Minister Garibashvili thanked President Peres and said, "I'm delighted and honored to be here. Israel is a friend and Georgia attaches great importance to the relationship between the two countries. We know that the bond between the Georgian and Jewish people goes back 2600 years, when the Jewish people first came to Georgia after the destruction of the First Temple. Since then Jewish people became like family, they were accepted, loved and respected and became part of Georgian society throughout history."
The Prime Minister added that, "Israel is a very important country for Georgia. I came here to confirm once again that Israel is a friend and partner. We'd like to strengthen our bilateral cooperation. Georgia is a small country and is a contributor to global peace and a small contributor but wherever we go, we are contributing and we are dedicated."