Georgia’s State Security and Crisis Management Council, an inter-agency body chaired by PM Irakli Garibashvili, has strongly denied reports about Tbilisi offering hosting of training center for anti-Islamic State fighters.
Foreign Policy’s The Cable reported on September 23, citing unnamed U.S. administration official, that Georgia has offered to host a training center for the Syrian rebels as a part of its contribution to the anti-IS coalition.
After it was reported, the Georgian Ministry of Defense released a statement saying that Tbilisi is considering various options of how to contribute to the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition; but the MoD statement did not deny the report by Foreign Policy.
But on Tuesday evening the State Security and Crisis Management Council released a statement saying that the report was “not true.”
“The State Security and Crisis Management Council states with full responsibility that media reports as if Georgia is planning to train Syrian rebels as part of anti-terrorist operation against Islamic State are not true,” reads the statement.
“Neither opening of a training center whatsoever nor sending of Georgian military contingent as part of the coalition is planned.”
“Georgia supports international efforts to fight terrorism and Georgia’s participation in ISAF mission in Afghanistan is testimony to that,” it reads.
“As far as anti-IS coalition is concerned, Georgia’s participation will mainly be limited with humanitarian missions,” reads the statement by the State Security and Crisis Management Council, which does not specify what kind of “humanitarian mission” it might be.
Report in Foreign Policy also quoted Georgia’s ambassador to the U.S., Archil Gegeshidze, as saying that the training center was “something we offered” to the U.S., but it “is still under consideration.” He was also cited that this training center could host anti-IS fighters from multiple countries, not just Syria.
But Ambassador Gegeshidze told Georgian journalists in New York, where the Georgian delegation led by PM Garibashvili is visiting UN headquarters, that there was “inaccuracy” in his quote and suggested that he was misinterpreted in the Foreign Policy report.
Georgian Foreign Minister, Maia Panjikidze, also denied the report and told Georgian journalists in New York that Georgia’s participation in anti-IS coalition will “only be of humanitarian nature.”
“I categorically rule out any military participation or training base in Georgia. We have not discussed it and our American partners know it,” Panjikidze said.
Addressing UN Security Council meeting on Iraq on September 19, Panjikidze reiterated Georgia’s readiness to contribute to the anti-IS coalition, but along with “humanitarian assistance”, she also mentioned possibility of sharing Georgia’s “valuable experience from combat missions.”
“We stand ready to provide humanitarian assistance to those who have been affected by brutal actions of terrorist groups. Furthermore, Georgia’s valuable experience from combat missions, as well as successful defense transformation can be effectively used to enhance capabilities of Iraqi and other security forces as they are taking fight against the ISIL [Islamic State] terrorist,” the Georgian Foreign Minister told the UN Security Council on September 19.
“We look forward to working with the United States and other coalition partners in coming days and weeks to identify areas where Georgia contribution can provide added value,” she added.
Georgia’s possible role in coalition to fight Islamic State was one of the issues discussed when U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited Tbilisi earlier this month.
“Trainings, exercises – these are the things that come to our mind,” Georgian Defense Minister, Irakli Alasania, said when asked after talks with Hagel how Georgia can contribute to anti-IS coalition.