President Giorgi Margvelashvili, accompanied by U.S. and EU ambassadors to Georgia, visited Pankisi gorge on January 30.
When at a meeting with locals in the village of Duisi, the President was asked from the audience about Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s recent allegation that Pankisi gorge was used by Islamic State fighters for training, Margvelashvili responded smiling: “Why not invite Mr. Lavrov here?” A local resident who asked the question responded: “Why not, let him come and see with his own eyes that nothing special is happening here.”
Asked later by journalist on the same issue, President Margvelashvili responded that he’s not even going to comment on those remarks of Lavrov.
“I am here with the EU and U.S. ambassadors, as well as with journalists and you can see with your own eyes how calm [the situation] is,” the President said. “Problems here are similar to those in other regions of the country – issues related to infrastructure, gasification have to be solved, there should be more employment opportunities for the youth.”
U.S. ambassador Ian Kelly told journalists in Pankisi: “I want to thank the President for inviting me to come along to this beautiful region of Georgia. I think you know that the United States really wants Georgia to succeed as a democracy, and I think that an inclusive society is a strong democracy. And this is why we want to support the President in his visit to Duisi today.”
Asked about the Russian Foreign Minister’s allegations, he said: “The Prime Minister has stated unequivocally that there are no training centers for terrorists here in the Pankisi Gorge and you have heard the President repeat that. And we of course cooperate very closely with Georgia in the fight against terrorism, and I take their words at face value. There are no training camps for terrorists in the Pankisi Gorge.”