TBILISI, DFWatch – There are intense preparations going on between Georgia and Israel to cancel visa restrictions between the two countries.
There are also talks with Israeli airlines regarding direct flights between Georgia and Israel, and Knesset is ready to give control over the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem back to the Georgian church, after more than three hundred years in Greek hands.
According to parliament’s press office, these are the main outcomes of a visit to Israel by the Georgian parliament’s speaker.
Davit Bakradze visited Israeli from 13 to 17 March on invitation from Knesset’s speaker Reuven Rivlin.
In the early days of Bakradze’s visit, it was said that the main topic of hiso visit was to start negotiations regarding Monastery of the Cross.
For centuries the Monastery was considered a Georgian cultural center and Georgia’s property. Three centuries ago, the monastery was transferred to Greek control. Recently, a fresco of the famous Georgian XII century poet Shota Rustaveli was damaged.
In February, the Georgian president made his first comment about returning control over the monastery to Georgia. But Israeli officials and the Georgian Patriarch denied that there were any negotiations regarding this issue.
Parliament’s press office reports that Davit Bakradze first spoke about this issue with Israeli’s Minister of Religious Services Ya’akov Margi.
Ya’akov Margi told journalists after the meeting that the Israeli government is ready to help Georgia hold negotiations and solve this issue to the best for both sides.
Later, Bakradze the Greek Patriarch in Jerusalem, Theophilos III, and they discussed the issue of returning control over Monastery of the Cross to Georgia.
The Speaker of Parliament told him about the position of Georgia’s government and society. He focused on the importance of returning the monastery back into the hands of the Georgian Church.
“Naturally, we expressed our great respect towards the Jerusalem Patriarchy and Patriarch. We are ready to find any way out and an agreement which will be based on the agreement of the Jerusalem Patriarchy and Patriarch. We are ready to hold a dialog and negotiations personally with him and the Patriarchy,” Bakradze said.
He noted that this process won’t be short. They discussed the issue with Knesset representatives too. In these talks it was stated that the Israeli legislative body will also get involved in negotiations together with the Israeli government.
During his visit, Bakradze also spoke about political and economic relations between the two countries, also about the necessity of simplifying visa rules.
“It is very important that intense efforts are already underway to cancel visa requirements so that Georgian citizens can come to Israel without a visa. It is important that there is an effort from Israeli airlines regarding direct flights between Israeli and Georgia,” Bakradze said.
It was also remarked that Georgian citizens having service and diplomatic passports in three or four months will probably be able to come to Israel without a visa and by the end of the year, a simplified visa regime will be up and running for citizens holding ordinary passports.
Simplified visa rules for Israeli citizens are already in place in Georgia.
The Georgian Speaker of Parliament also met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Relations between the two close US allies were marred by the arrest of two Israeli businessmen in Georgia in October 2010 for bribery. The two were later released, but another blow to the two countries relations came when Wikileaks revealed that the Israeli government allegedly shared secret codes of Israeli produced drones to Russia before the 2008 Georgia-Russia war, in exchange for codes to Russian anti-aircraft missiles sold by Russia to Iran.