Ministers slam President’s “harmful silence” over Aliyev’s win in Azerbaijani’s presidential race

Tsulukiani claimed the President’s alleged alignment with interests of “so-called patrons” over pursuing “national interests”. Photo: Government press office, 12 Feb 2024 - 14:27, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Georgian ministers of Defence and Culture on Monday slammed President Salome Zourabichvili’s delay in congratulating Ilham Aliyev on his victory in last week’s presidential elections in Azerbaijan, claiming the “inaction” could harm the “strategic partnership” and “exemplary ties” with the neighbouring country. 

In his comments, Defence Minister Irakli Chikovani expressed surprise over the President’s “apparent inaction”, emphasised the significance of “diplomatic norms” and stressed Zourabichvili should have sent congratulatory messages to her counterpart. 

In comments on concerns about potential negative implications of the action on the “strategic partnership” and “special relations” with Azerbaijan, the Minister said “nurturing” of the existing partnership had facilitated “successful bilateral projects”.

Expressing his scepticism over arguments Zourabichvili was waiting for official, final election results before sending her messages, Chikovani pointed out the circumstance had not deterred other leaders, including those from the European Union and Georgia's Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, from extending congratulations to Aliyev. 

Chikovani claimed the President's "silence" could harm Georgia's relations with Azerbaijan and that her actions could be "deliberate". Photo: Government press office. 

He also hinted at the possibility of a “deliberate strategy” behind the President's decision and implied she could be pursuing “certain undisclosed objectives” which could “potentially contradict the broader interests” of the state.

Tsulukiani, who also serves as the Deputy Prime Minister, claimed the President’s silence was “detrimental to our state" and reminded her of “increased geopolitical and security risks” in the South Caucasus region over the recent years as well as the Georgian Government's “continued efforts”  to mitigate them.

In light of this, the President, as the Commander-in-Chief, choosing not to extend congratulations to our neighbouring partner and friendly head of state on his electoral victory signifies political thoughtlessness”, she said. 

Like Chikovani, Tsulukiani also claimed the President’s alleged alignment with interests of “so-called patrons” over pursuing “national interests”. 

She also said the argument on congratulations being withheld until formal declarations of election results held “little merit”, as evidenced by Zourabishvili's “prompt congratulatory message” to French President Emmanuel Macron in 2022 “before the official confirmation of his election results”. 

The President's Office later responded Zourabichvili had sent an official letter with congratulatory messages to Aliyev on Friday. 

Aliyev won a fifth consecutive term in power with more than 92 percent of the vote in Wednesday’s elections, according to election authorities.