Sanctions officials from the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States, who were on a visit to Georgia this week, on Wednesday highlighted they had been “convinced” that the country’s Government was “seriously” determined not to allow the circumvention of sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
At a press briefing in Tbilisi, David O’Sullivan, the European Union Sanctions Envoy, noted the “positive impressions” after the meetings with the Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and other Georgian officials, and said he was “impressed” by the measures the Government had taken against sanctions evasion.
O’Sullivan said he had visited not only Georgia but also several other countries with his American and British counterparts over the past few months, pointing out “partnership and cooperation” with the governments as the topic of their visits.
The Envoy pointed out the visiting officials were studying the matter of sanctions evasion following 38 battlefield products found in Ukraine during the ongoing conflict in the country, and emphasised the Georgian Government had taken “significant measures” to control the export of these products and stressed the country’s authorities were also “vigilant” against bypassing financial sanctions.
The EU envoy added the bloc understood the “very specific situation of Georgia [with the country’s territories occupied by Russia]”, and highlighted the country’s Government was taking “very serious obligations” not to allow circumvention of the sanctions by use of the Georgian territory.
[W]e, the EU and Georgia, which will hopefully one day become a member of the bloc, have an important bilateral agenda [...], we must avoid that it [enforcement of sanctions] does not become an obstacle to our close bilateral relations [...], I am glad that what we have seen in the last two days does not give grounds for this”, he said.
O’Sullivan also stressed the European Union did not want to “interfere in legitimate trade relations” between Georgia and Russia as “this is a matter of Georgian business and Government”.
In his turn, Kumar Iyer, the Director General for Economics, Science and Technology at the United Kingdom Foreign Office, said he was “truly grateful” for the steps taken by the Georgian Government “so far” to prevent the circumvention of sanctions.
Iyer noted one of the reasons for his visit to the country was to review the continuation of the partnership between the two states in prevention of import of military goods to Russia.
“Sanctions are mostly evaded through land borders and therefore, we are now focusing on what additional mechanisms can be introduced to tighten controls”, he said.
The British official stressed the possibility of sharing the “best experience” of his country, the United States and the European Union for enforcement of the sanctions had been discussed during meetings with Georgian officials, and noted they had offered the Georgian side to bring experts and hold additional training to “further refine the control mechanisms”.
Had a great meeting w/ David O’Sallivan & Jim O’Brien on #enforcement of #international #sanctions against #Russia, reviewing effective performance of customs & sound measures implemented by @mofgeorgia towards this end under the umbrella of joint efforts by allies & partners. pic.twitter.com/oUqCNU35KS— Lasha Khutsishvili ???????? (@Lasha_Khutsish) June 27, 2023
In his comments, James O'Brien, the Head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination in the United States, said the Georgian Government had done “a great job” in preventing the circumvention of sanctions.
O’Brien hailed the Government’s “complex” approach to the prevention of sanctions evasion, and noted the “complex system” would allow international partners to identify trading of sanctioned goods if it continued operating.
He also stressed the importance of ensuring no supply of goods used in the war to Russia, and highlighted “very fruitful” cooperation with Georgian authorities during the visit.
The Georgian Government and the Georgian people know very well how important it is to stop the occupier who is conquering the neighbouring country, and Georgia probably knows this best from its experience and understands its sense”, the US official said.
O'Brien emphasised the meetings held in Tbilisi were a “reflection of the close and deep cooperation” between the US and the Georgian Government, as well as with the latter’s various agencies.
“The main purpose of our visit is to continue the cooperation we have with the representatives of the Georgian Government”, he concluded.
Had a good meeting with the high-level diplomats from ???????? ???????? ???????? @KumarIyerUK, James O'Brien and @D0Sullivan. We welcomed Georgia's compliance with the international policy of financial sanctions and focused on the excellent work of Georgia's relevant state agencies. pic.twitter.com/tVNBVYcuXz— Ilia Darchiashvili (@iliadarch) June 27, 2023
Georgian Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili on Thursday said the visit had “confirmed once again” the Government’s assurances of the international sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine not being subverted through Georgia.
Darchiashvili said the Government had “publicly stated” it would “firmly defend” principles related to enforcing the sanctions, and added the “baseless” accusations on failures of enforcing them - coming from critics of the domestic authorities - had come “based on their narrow political agenda, and by doing so they were damaging the reputation of our country”.
“The visit of [our] partners is very important. They had the opportunity to see the steps taken in Georgia, the enormous efforts made by our Government in this very difficult situation. In general, we are a responsible country, a responsible Government”, Darchiashvili said.
We took responsibility [and] publicly stated that Georgia would firmly defend the issues related to financial sanctions. This was confirmed once again, and our partners saw with their own eyes what we talk about every day. Georgia will continue active work in this direction, [and a] very close coordination with our partners”, the top Georgian diplomat noted.
In his turn, the Georgian Minister of Finance Lasha Khutsishvili said the visit of the sanctions officials had emphasised the “great job” done by the Georgian Government and its results.
We have made a lot of statements regarding the enforcement of sanctions [over the past] one year, despite the false information that was spread very often in the press. All these allegations and facts were answered together”, he noted.