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Qatar-Georgia cooperation growing stronger


 
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Dr. Khalid Al-Shafi | Editor-in-chief

The President of Georgia, H E Salome Zourabichvili, recently in an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with The Peninsula spoke at length about growing ties between Qatar and Georgia and also predicted that these ties are set to grow further in various dimensions in days to come.
 
Qatar and Georgia enjoy strong relation and bilateral cooperation covers many fields such as trade, education, tourism, culture among others.   
 
The President of Georgia, H E Salome Zourabichvili, recently in an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with The Peninsula, conducted by Editor-in-Chief spoke at length about growing ties between Qatar and Georgia and also predicted that these ties are set to grow further in various dimensions in the days to come.
 
H E Salome Zourabichvili talked about qualitative shift in bilateral relationships in coming times as well as on agreements to be signed between Qatar and Georgia in the near future. H E the President of Georgia thinks that investments, trade, education and culture, innovation and technologies are the main areas in which cooperation and interaction between both the countries is expected to grow.
 
H E Salome Zourabichvili, born on March 18, 1952 in Paris, France, started her diplomatic and political career in 1974. In 1974-2004, she worked in the diplomatic service for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France in several embassies (Italy, United States, and Chad) and with French representations to international organizations (UN, NATO, Western European Union, OSCE).
 
In March 11, 2006 founded the political party “The Way of Georgia”.
 
In 2018, H E Salome Zourabichvili was elected by the people of Georgia as the first woman President and she will serve in office till 2024.
 
“Over the years, cooperation between Qatar and Georgia has grown stronger in various areas, such as economy, culture, education, trade, tourism and people to people contacts. Qatari-Georgian relations have developed rapidly,” the President said. 
 
H E the President added that more than 10 agreements and MoUs have already been signed (between Qatar and Georgia) in different areas and more are under consideration or ready to be signed in the nearest future. “Governments of our countries have ended negotiations and two very important intergovernmental agreements will be signed soon – one on mutual protection of investments and another on technical and economic cooperation. Signing of these documents will further deepen economic cooperation between two countries.”
 
To a question, H E the President of Georgia said that investments, trade, education and culture, innovation and technologies are the main areas in which cooperation and interaction between the two countries is expected to grow.
 
Talking on 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, the President of Georgia said: “FIFA World Cup 2022, which will be held in Qatar - the first time in the Middle East and in so close proximity to Georgia – gives us additional incentives and opportunities to step up tourism cooperation to qualitatively new level. Holding FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar will put the wider region in the spotlight internationally.”
 
Qatar and Georgia are linked today with good relations in many fields, in particular since the opening of Georgia’s embassy in Doha in 2012, there is expectation for a qualitative shift in the relationship of the two countries within the coming months or years?
 
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in March 1993, Georgia and Qatar maintain very positive dynamics of bilateral ties. Over the years cooperation between the two countries has grown stronger in various areas, such as economy, culture, education, trade, tourism and people to people contacts. Qatari-Georgian relations have developed rapidly. Several high level visits took place by both sides.
 
More than 10 Agreements and MoUs have already been signed in different areas and more are under consideration or ready to be signed in the nearest future. Georgia has become one of the favourite tourist destinations in Qatar. Three daily flights operated by Qatar Airways bring hundreds of visitors from Qatar to Georgia every day. Georgia and Qatar are discovering each other more and more as economic partners. Over the last couple of years bilateral trade volume increased. Georgia is exporting agricultural products to Qatar, while imports various products of petro-chemical industry from your country.
 
A number of Qatari investment projects is underway in Georgia. Taking into account Georgia’s strategic location and the recently achieved free trade agreements with major markets, such as EU, EFTA, China, CIS countries is a potential for a qualitative shift in our relations.
 
Are there any obstacles or difficulties that prevent, in your opinion, from achieving more steps or what steps should be taken to achieve further cooperation between the two countries?
 
I don’t see any obstacles or difficulties that prevent achieving more results in terms of bilateral relations. Historically close relations between Georgia and the Arab world, cultural ties and contacts between peoples are favourable preconditions for further deepening relations. Following the restoration of Georgia’s independence, the establishment of diplomatic relations between Georgia and the State of Qatar in 1993 set the stage for the start of friendly relations between the two countries.
 
The opening of an embassy in 2012 is a sign of the political will to improve even further our relations. Qatar was the first state in the Gulf region to open the embassy in Georgia. Qatar has always been a staunch supporter of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
 
The geographical proximity of our regions naturally contributes to the development and deepening of many aspects of our relationship. I extended the invitation to the Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to visit Georgia. I hope His Highness will be able to visit us early in 2020 and we will have chance to discuss the opportunities of deepening and further enhancing the bilateral cooperation between our countries.
We understand Georgia and Qatar have plans to sign two agreements on investment promotion and economic, technical cooperation, so when these bilateral agreements will be inked?
 
Yes, you are correct. Governments of our countries have ended negotiations and two very important intergovernmental agreements will be signed soon – one on mutual protection of investments and another on technical and economic cooperation. Signing of these documents will further deepen economic cooperation between two countries.  These agreements should be signed during the visit of
H H the Amir in the nearest future.
 
What are the main areas of cooperation between Georgia and Qatar in which we expect to witness further enhancement in the near future?
 
Investments, trade, education and culture, innovation and technologies, are the main areas in which cooperation and interaction between our countries are expected to grow. Georgia is a leader in the region in terms investment attractiveness. Georgia has created one of the most advanced investment friendly environment: efficient public services, corruption-free government and free, fair and transparent business climate, which has been reflected in international institutions ratings.
For example World Bank’s “Doing Business 2020” placed Georgia at 6th position in “Ease of doing business” out of 190 countries. According to World Economic Forum’s “lowest tax rates 2018”, Georgia occupies the 8th position. Heritage Foundation placed Georgia at 16th place in “Index of Economic Freedom” out of 180 countries. Georgia has established itself as reliable partner and represent, in the wide region a role of stability, a dialogue between Europe and Asia that can only attract more investors and create more confidence.
 
In 2010, Georgia and Qatar signed an agreement exempting nationals of the two countries from entry visa and later this was enhanced by making visa on arrival for all residents of Qatar; what is the impact of this in attracting more visitors to boost tourism to Georgia?
 
According to Georgian legislation, Qatari citizens are exempted from Georgian visa requirements and they can travel to Georgia visa-free up to one year. Also, third country nationals residing in Qatar permanently and holding Qatari IDs are exempted from Georgian visas and they can travel directly.
Nowadays, tourism is booming in Georgia. Last year number of international visitors exceeded 8 million, this year we expect more visitors. There are many reasons why people around the world choose to travel to Georgia - unique culture, gorgeous nature, mountains, indigenous cuisine, seashore, ski resorts and well-known hospitality. 
 
What about the scientific and cultural cooperation between the two countries? Twin agreement was signed between Doha and Tbilisi in 2014, to introduce cultural events and encourage cultural exchange?
 
I see great potential for cooperation in the fields of science and education, particularly in the field of innovation and technologies. Qatar is a seat of numerous prominent university branches, while number of Georgian universities provide high level medical education. The Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia will visit Qatar in November to participate in WISE Summit in Doha.
Every year, Georgian students are learning Arabic language in Qatar University. Such student exchanges and cooperation in this direction is very important. In terms of culture, the famous Georgian National Ballet Sukhishvili performed twice this year in Doha, which was their first performance in GCC region.  Cooperation in terms of joint film production is also a very promising area. 
 
How is the linking of China’s “One Belt One Road” project with Georgia going to benefit the investors in Georgia?
 
Georgia was one of the first countries which supported “One Belt One Road Initiative”, so-called New Silk Road. Historically, we always were part of that trade route which spanned from China to Europe. International trade is at the centre of the global economy and is a major driver of economic growth. Ancient trade routes, now replaced by modern systems of transportation and communication, remain platform for the exchange of goods, culture, technology and knowledge.
 
Silk Road initiative aims at developing transportation corridors to accommodate the growing scale and increasing speed at which international trade is conducted today. Georgia while being small state strategically located on the crossroads of cultures and civilizations plays an important role in the overall success of the trade route and its development by positively engaging and supporting implementation of concrete projects and economic initiatives, which are facilitating trade and connectivity. Unified policies, reduced trade barriers and improved connectivity will help to use the huge potential our region has in terms of investments and growth.
 
As you know since June 5, 2017 Qatar is under unjust siege imposed by the four Arab countries, how does the Republic of Georgia see the act of setting condition and imposing blockade on a nation for settling political differences?
 
We are observing Gulf crisis with concern as it happens in close proximity to our region and in some way affects us as well. Development of good relations with the GCC member states is one of our foreign policy priorities. We consistently build up close ties with this region. Therefore, we can only hope that the crisis will be resolved through the dialogue and negotiation that the international engagement and mediation efforts will succeed.
 
Qatar is set to host FIFA World Cup 2022, an event will be held in the region for the first time, how do you see this development and do you think it will be a unique experience?
 
FIFA World Cup 2022, which will be held in Qatar - the first time in the Middle East and in so close proximity to Georgia – gives us additional incentives and opportunities to step up tourism cooperation to qualitatively new level. Holding FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar will put the wider region in the spotlight internationally. I wish Qatari authorities success in organizing such an important sport event.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with The Peninsula