On Wednesday (28 October) Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with his new Georgian colleague Giorgi Kvirikashvili on his first official visit to Berlin. The talks centred on extending economic cooperation between Germany and Georgia, the ongoing implementation of the EU Association Agreement with Georgia and on regional and international conflicts.
“I would like to congratulate my Georgian colleague most warmly!” This is how Foreign Minister Steinmeier welcomed the Georgian Foreign Minister and Vice Prime Minister Kvirikashvili in his new post which he took up only a few weeks ago. Steinmeier hoped he would enjoy his new role but looking at what is going on in the world it was plain to see that there wasn’t much to enjoy just now.
Positive development of German-Georgian relations
A source of greater joy than the global foreign-policy climate are the developments in bilateral relations between Germany and Georgia. Thus, directly before the ministers’ talks, there was for the first time a meeting of German and Georgian business experts in the Federal Foreign Office examining inward investment and nation branding. This form of German-Georgian economic cooperation was agreed during Steinmeier’s last visit to Georgia in December 2014. Thus it came as no surprise that after their meeting the two Ministers underscored the importance of economic cooperation, although Kvirikashvili would like to see even more German investment in Georgia – particularly by smaller and medium-sized enterprises.
The two Ministers also discussed Georgia’s relations with the EU. Steinmeier described the signing of the Association Agreement between the EU and Georgia as a “major step on the road to draw Georgia and the countries of the European Union closer together” and emphasised the need to work on further implementation. As Steinmeier underscored, “Georgia can continue to count on our support”.
Ukraine: Stepping up efforts for political solution
The Foreign Ministers also looked at relations with Russia including Russian policy on South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as the conflict in Ukraine. As Steinmeier pointed out, both Ministers were pleased that the military situation in eastern Ukraine had calmed somewhat in the last nine weeks and that the ceasefire is more or less being respected, thus creating the space to talk about political solutions.
Despite these positive developments, the German Foreign Minister warned against being overly optimistic. He indicated that the road to complete implementation of the Minsk agreements remains “unfortunately still very long”. Steinmeier stated, “We need not just to maintain our efforts but to step them up so that implementation actually happens”.
Movement on diplomacy on Syria
Turning to the violent conflict in Syria, Steinmeier emphasised it was not just a political but also a moral duty to end the war and help launch a political solution. The German Foreign Minister also addressed the intensive efforts of the last few days which have brought the first movement into the international diplomacy on Syria. To this end, Steinmeier himself was in Iran and Saudi Arabia for political talks just a few days ago and upon his return met with US Secretary of State John Kerry amongst others in Berlin.
There is now reason to hope, Steinmeier went on, that for the first time there would be people sitting around a table in Vienna on Friday not just from Russia, the United States and Europe but also from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran. For him, this was not yet the big breakthrough but it was the first step we need if we are to agree on a shared basis for shared action. It might not seem like much, the Minister continued, but given the problems in recent weeks and months to get the key players around a table, this is actually a major step forward