French Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is visiting Georgia on September 10-12, met his Georgian counterpart, Levan Izoria, on Saturday.
Speaking at a joint news conference after the meeting, Le Drian, who is the first French Defense Minister to pay an official visit to Georgia, hailed bilateral cooperation and thanked Georgia for its contribution to missions in Afghanistan and the Central African Republic.
Le Drian said that in frames of the NATO-Georgia substantial package, agreed at 2014 NATO summit, France took the lead in helping the country to have its efficient air defense capabilities. He also said that a French air force officer has been assigned to Georgia to oversee the process.
Late last year Georgia entered into a loan agreement with the French bank Société Générale for financing acquisition of air defense system from France. The loan is backed by the France’s export credit agency Coface.
EUR 52.65 million from the total loan amount is designed for purchasing unspecified equipment and services from ThalesRaytheonSystems, which produces ground-based surveillance radars and air defense command and control systems, and EUR 24.98 million is intended for acquisitions from missile manufacturer MBDA France.
At a joint news conference in Tbilisi, Georgian Defense Minister Izoria said it was reiterated at the meeting with his French counterpart that the contract on air defense systems remains in force and will be fully implemented.
On September 12 Le Drian will travel to Sachkhere in the Imereti region to participate in a 10-year anniversary of Mountain Training Schools, which was launched with the French assistance and which provides courses for the Georgian and partner nations’ military personnel.
The two ministers said that the Sachkhere Mountain Training School is a “good example” of bilateral cooperation in the defense sector.
Izoria said that the French side has expressed readiness to step up efforts in this direction, specifically to contribute to the development of army mountain firing range, Abuli, in Samtskhe-Javakheti region.
Le Drian also said that French navy ship will make a port call in Georgia in October.
French navy ships made port visits in Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast three times between April and September of 2014 – light stealth frigate FS Surcouf; intelligence-gathering ship Dupuy de Lôme, and Commandant Birot (F 796).
During the visit, the French Defense Minister will meet PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili on September 11 and President Giorgi Margvelashvili on September 12.
Also on September 12 the French Defense Minister will award those Georgian soldiers, who served alongside French troops in Afghanistan and the Central African Republic.