Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili has denied reports about Tbilisi offering to host training center for anti-Islamic State fighters and said that Georgia’s contribution to the U.S.-led international coalition will only be “symbolic.”
“I deny this report,” PM Garibashvili told Georgian journalists September 25 in New York, where he is attending the UN General Assembly.
“No training center whatsoever is planned on our territory. This is wrong information and I want to call on journalists to show more responsibility while reporting it,” he said.
“Georgia’s participation in this coalition will be symbolic. We have agreed at the security council [apparently referring to Georgia’s state security and crisis management council] that Georgia will provide humanitarian assistance. It will be solely humanitarian and not military assistance,” PM Garibashvili said.
Foreign Policy’s The Cable reported on September 23, citing unnamed U.S. administration official, that Georgia has offered to host a training center for the Syrian rebels as a part of its contribution to the anti-IS coalition.
It was then also reported by Reuters. “U.S. officials said Georgia had offered to host a training centre for U.S.-backed Syrian rebels, but it was unclear whether Washington would take Tbilisi up on the offer,” Reuters reported in its September 24 analysis of U.S. efforts to forge anti-IS coalition.
Shortly after the Foreign Policy published its story on September 23, the Georgian Ministry of Defense released a statement saying that Tbilisi is considering various options of how to contribute to the anti-IS coalition; but the MoD statement did not deny the report by the Foreign Policy.
Georgia’s State Security and Crisis Management Council, an inter-agency body chaired by PM Irakli Garibashvili, however, strongly denied the report later on September 23.
Foreign Minister, Maia Panjikidze, also denied it on the same day. Four days earlier, on September 19, Foreign Minister Panjikidze addressed the UN Security Council and reiterated Georgia’s readiness to contribute to the anti-IS coalition, but along with “humanitarian assistance”, she also mentioned possibility of sharing Georgia’s “valuable experience from combat missions.”
“We stand ready to provide humanitarian assistance to those who have been affected by brutal actions of terrorist groups. Furthermore, Georgia’s valuable experience from combat missions, as well as successful defense transformation can be effectively used to enhance capabilities of Iraqi and other security forces as they are taking fight against the ISIL [Islamic State] terrorist,” the Georgian Foreign Minister told the UN Security Council on September 19.
“We look forward to working with the United States and other coalition partners in coming days and weeks to identify areas where Georgia contribution can provide added value,” she added.
Georgia’s possible role in coalition to fight Islamic State was one of the issues discussed when U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited Tbilisi earlier this month.
“Trainings, exercises – these are the things that come to our mind,” Georgian Defense Minister, Irakli Alasania, said when asked after talks with Hagel how Georgia can contribute to anti-IS coalition.