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Saakashvili Speaks of Importance of Close Ties with Turkey
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 14 Mar.'06 / 17:11

President Mikheil Saakashvili said on March 14 after talks with his visiting Turkish counterpart Ahmet Necdet Sezer that Turkey is “a great state” which is “a friend” of Georgia. Saakashvili also said at a joint news conference after talks in Tbilisi that Georgia is “firm and consistent supporter” of Turkey’s EU membership and added that Georgia is grateful for Turkey’s support in Georgia’s NATO aspiration.

President Saakashvili stressed on importance to boost economic ties between the two countries. “I am sure we will be able to integrate our economies which will foster mutual development,” Saakashvili said.

Turkish Foreign Trade Undersecretary Tuncer Kayalar and Georgian Economy Minister Irakli Chogovadze signed on March 14 an agreement on a joint exploitation of Batumi airport in Adjara Autonomous Republic, which also envisages regular flights between Istanbul and Batumi. The airport will also become part of Turkey's network of internal flights. A consortium of Turkish companies TAV and Urban have pledged last September to invest USD 15 million in reconstruction of the Batumi airport.

President Saakashvili said that this agreement is a good example of economic cooperation between the two countries. He said that in summer a new runway will be opened in Batumi airport.

Saakashvili also said that currently “talks are underway between the two sides on free trade between Georgia and Turkey.”

The Georgian leader also noted importance of minimizing visa rules between the two countries. Georgia and Turkey enforced non-visa treatment for three-month long visits starting from February 10, 2006.

He stressed that this happened shortly before the announcement by Russia that it halts issuing of visas for the Georgian citizens.

“This was a historic coincidence, when neighboring country ceased issuing of visas and Turkey has lifted visa requirements for our citizens. This means more trade, more tourism and more close economic ties,” President Saakashvili said.

Saakashvili also thanked Turkey for providing electricity during, as he put it, “energy sabotage” against Georgia in January, when twin blasts on gas pipelines in Russia stopped gas supply to Georgia.

“We are now starting construction of a new high-voltage power line with Turkey which will enable us to export and import extra electricity,” Saakashvili said.

The Georgian President said that Turkey and Georgia are “also cooperating very closely in respect of stability, peace and development in the Black Sea region.”

“Turkey is a great state, our close friend and a model state for us. I have said for several times that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s activities which were directed towards Turkey’s unification and strengthening is a perfect example for me. I think that what he did for Turkey, we have to do the same for Georgia. Georgia should become a modern, united, developed and successful state and in many issues we follow example of our neighboring friend – Turkey,” Saakashvili said.

“We are also grateful for Turkey’s support in Georgia’s NATO aspiration. Integration into NATO is a vital issue for our political development. And we are firm and consistent supporters of Turkey’s EU membership. I think this is a correct, but to a certain extent delayed process, which should be accomplished in a shortest period of time,” he added.

The Georgian President also noted Turkey’s “positive role” in solving Adjara crisis in 2004. “One of the major goals of our government to turn Adjara into a perfect regional example of successful development and in many cases we move towards this goal through the assistance of Turkey,” he said.

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