TBILISI—“The brotherhood between the Georgian and Jewish peoples is a song to my ears,” said Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze as he met a delegation of the European Jewish Parliament in Tbilisi.
The delegation, led by European Jewish Parliament President and Ukrainian MP Vadim Rabinovich, also included Marco Katz of the Romanian Centre to combat antisemitisl, Goergian Jewish community representative Mori Krikheli, Shimon Samuels, international director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center as well as Cefi Kamhi, Vice President of the European Jewish Parliament.
The Jewish delegation, which also met Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Tamar Chugoshvili, expressed concern at the brutal murder by neo-Nazis, last September in Tbilisi, of a young Georgian Jewish student, Vitali Safarov.
They noted that Jews had lived peacefully for 2,600 years in Georgia, in the absence of antisemitism.
The Prime Minister committed himself to encourage a swift judgement of the perpetrators. Though one of the three killers was a 17 year old minor, they face aggravated penalty for hate crimes under Georgian jurisprudence.
The European Jewish Parliament held its General Assembly in Tbilisi in the midst of the second round of presidential elections which saw, for the first time, the election of a woman, Salome Zurabishvili, a French-born former foreign minister of Georgia.
Zurabishvili, a 66-year-old independent lawmaker, is the daughter of refugees who fled Georgia in 1921 for Paris, after the country’s annexation by the Red Army.
In an interview with i24NEWS, she said that events unfolding between Russia and the Ukraine will also push Georgia to seek closer ties with Israel, especially when it comes to defense.
“Israel as you know is one of the oldest partners of Georgia, we have very close and very friendly relations and have been supported by Israel at all times,” Zurabishvili said.
“We will need strong partners for increasing our defense capabilities both in the air and at sea, and what the Ukraine crisis is showing is that Georgia needs more sea capabilities. I’m sure that these are issues that we can tomorrow discuss with our Israeli partners as well as with our NATO partners and European partners,” she added.
She also said that Georgia and Israel share a similar battle in defending their independence and asserting their sovereignty against belligerent neighbors.
The move of her country’s embassy to Jerusalem is a decision that could only be made by the Georgian government, she said.
“It’s something that probably we can discuss together, but that decision would be taken first and foremost by government if it has to be taken.”