Today my country, Georgia, celebrates its National Day and we are proud to share this occasion with our partners across the globe. Since my tenure as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia comes to an end this summer, allow me to recount the unforgettable four to five years spent in this Kingdom.
Georgia, since its declaration of independence in 1918, has always positioned itself in the international community, building friendships and partnerships worldwide. While determined to integrate the European Union and NATO, we look forward to a qualitatively different relationship with our friends.
Saudi Arabia is among them, and I am delighted that our relations have been particularly dynamic during the past year.
In December of last year Georgia’s Prime Minister, His Excellency Irakli Garibashvili, paid his first official visit to Saudi Arabia, where he was welcomed by His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman.
They highlighted the distinguished ties between the two countries and agreed on a number of economic, trade and investment opportunities, as well as ways to further improve cooperation.
When it comes to people-to-people relations, it gives me a special pleasure that more than 100,000 Saudis visited Georgia last year. In the summer, more than 50 direct flights a week connect different cities in our countries, and I am confident the number will increase in the years to come.
We are all witnesses to the emerging role of the Kingdom in the Middle East and in the wider world. After Russia’s totally unjustified invasion of Ukraine, the mediation of Saudi leadership made it possible to exchange prisoners. The Kingdom’s humanitarian aid, which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars, is clear evidence of the will of Saudi Arabia to alleviate the human suffering of the Ukrainian people.
Just a couple of weeks ago, after Sudan’s tragic civil war broke out, Saudi Arabia’s swift reaction helped evacuate thousands of citizens from dozens of countries, including Georgians. I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation for the Kingdom’s prompt and effective response to assist friendly nations in the safe repatriation of civilians.
It also gives me immense pleasure to state that I will leave a country that has completely transformed since I arrived in 2018. The achievements are plenty, but to name a few: Today, businessmen can invest in different mega-projects that are unrivaled in the world, tourists can discover fantastic historical sites and enjoy fine dining in restaurants across the Kingdom, while youth can attend the top sports events and choose between numerous concerts and festivals of world-renowned groups and artists.
In just a few years, Saudi Arabia has become one of the most attractive business and tourist destinations, and I am confident the best is yet to come.
The process of rapprochement of our countries is irrevocable. I remain grateful for all the cooperation, partnership and bridges we have built together. I have no doubt, at the end of my successor’s mandate, that the ties between our friendly nations will be even stronger and the Kingdom even more attractive.
As for my future endeavors, one thing is certain: I will take one of these flights to return to Saudi Arabia as a tourist, visit my many dear friends and witness the successful accomplishment of ongoing changes.
• H.E. Vakhtang Jaoshvili is the Ambassador of Georgia to Saudi Arabia, who previously held the same roles in Israel and Ethiopia.