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Third Round of the Georgia-UK Wardrop Dialogue and Visit by UK’s Minister of State for Europe and the Americas

On 24th November 2016, the Foreign Minister of Georgia H.E. Mikheil Janelidze welcomed H.E Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Rt Hon Alan Duncan MP for a bilateral visit to Georgia.

The visit took place in parallel with the third round of the high level UK-Georgia bilateral “Wardrop” Dialogue, led by Foreign Minister of Georgia, Mikheil Janelidze and Minister of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan MP. The dialogue is named after Sir Oliver Wardrop, an expert on Georgian language and culture who was posted to Tbilisi as the UK’s first Chief Commissioner of the Transcaucasus from 1919-1921.

Summary: Discussions during the Wardrop Dialogue covered current and future UK-Georgia cooperation in the political, defence and security spheres;  process for Georgia’s integration  with the EU and NATO; progress on priority reforms, including the government’s 4 point reform plan, and judicial reform in Georgia; and an exchange of views on regional political and security developments. Both sides positively evaluated the work achieved under the Wardrop Dialogue banner so far in the fields of foreign policy, security and defence, business and the economy. The introduction of a new session on People-to-People relations brought a new element to this year’s Wardrop Dialogue, with a particular emphasis on developing educational ties, cultural collaboration and city twinning.

At the opening Ministerial Plenary Session Minister Janelidze gave an update on developments in Georgia since the last session in 2015, including the October Parliamentary elections, and a forward look at the new Government of Georgia’s agenda. Minister for Europe and the Americas Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan MP said that the UK looked forward to continuing to work with  Georgia, and gave an update on developments in the UK since the last Dialogue in 2015.

He stressed that the UK would maintain a leading role in global affairs through the UNSC, NATO, G7, and G20, and that the UK’s decision to leave the EU would not mean any reduction in its interest in, or commitment to, Georgia and the wider region.  Minister Duncan stressed that the UK follows the conflict in Georgia and he condemned the ratification by the Russian Federation of the so-called “agreement” on the creation of a joint group of armed forces in Abkhazia region. In recognition of the value of this annual Dialogue and the close ties between our two countries, Minister Janelidze and Minister Duncan agreed to an upgrade of the UK-Georgia dialogue to become the “Wardrop Strategic Dialogue”.

During official level discussions, the two sides discussed cooperation on political, security and defence issues; business and economic cooperation; and the potential for further expanding people-to-people ties, education and cultural links. In the political, security and defence discussions, the UK side noted that the October parliamentary elections had been competitive and well-administered, and expressed its strong continuing support for Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration aspirations.

The UK also reiterated once again its support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders, and expressed concern over the grave security and human rights situation in Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. The UK firmly supports the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Georgia, based on full respect of the fundamental norms and principles of international law and the 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement.

The two sides welcomed the strong security and defence relationship between their two Governments, noting the extent of defence cooperation, and welcoming continued exchange of expertise on Cyber and Counter-Terrorism issues. The UK expressed its appreciation for Georgia’s continuing contribution to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Both sides welcomed the participation of 160 British military personnel in the US-Georgia military exercise Noble Partner 2016.

The two sides discussed further potential for deepening business and commercial ties, noting that the UK was the second biggest investor in Georgia and that bilateral trade is on an increasing trend. They highlighted the importance of the South Caucasus pipeline as an important component of European energy security.

Finally, the two sides welcomed strong existing people-to-people links and explored ways to increase educational and cultural ties between the UK and Georgia, including the activities undertaken by the British Council in Georgia, English language training programmes, the growing number of Chevening Scholarships for Georgia, with 17 Chevening scholars this year alone, and the strong partnerships represented by the twinning associations between Newport and Kutaisi; Tbilisi and Bristol; and Newcastle and Akhaltsikhe. Both sides agreed that all efforts should be made to support and develop these links further.