French President shows emotions as Georgia sends troops to Africa

French President Francois Hollande arrives in Tbilisi International Airport; Photo by MFA ., 13 May 2014 - 19:40, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s participation in the French-led peace mission in the troubled Central African Republic was one of the key issues discussed during French President Francois Hollande’s visit to Georgia today.

At a 10-minute meeting with Georgia’s Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze at Tbilisi International Airport immediately after Hollande arrived this afternoon, the French President said it was "very emotional” for him to hear Georgia would send troops to Africa.

"I want to express my support for the fact that you are signing the Association Agreement to develop economic relations. That’s why I will attend the forum of Georgian and French businessmen,” Hollande said.

He added: "It was also emotional for me when I heard that you were going to send your military contingent to Central Africa.”

The same issue was discussed at his meeting with the country’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili.

The French President thanked Georgia for its decision to participate in the EU mission in Africa.

Garibashvili, on the other hand, told him Georgia attached particular importance to its participation in the European Union’s crisis management operations and was proud to be a partner of France in the Central African Republic mission.

Georgia will send 125 troops to Africa. The Batumi Separate Battalion are set to spend six months there with Georgian-produced equipment. The same Battalion served in Afghanistan and also participated in several French military training.

Georgian officials said it would be "a useful experience” for Georgian troops to participate in the EU mission. This will be the first time Georgia will contribute to an EU Security and Defence Mission and its first operation in Africa.

"After this, France and other EU countries will find it easier to collaborate with Georgia in a defensive sphere,” said Georgia’s Defene Minister Irakli Alasania.

Georgia’s State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Alex Petriashvili said: "This contribution by Georgia will adequately be appreciated in the future.”

The French President visited Georgia during his tour of the South Caucasus.