France pledges continuing support for Georgia
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In his meeting with Georgia's newly-elected President, Salome Zurabishvili, France’s President Emmanuel Macron has expressed France's support for Georgia's territorial integrity, as the former Soviet Republic seeks closer ties with the European Union.
Macron condemned the creation of actual borders between the provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the rest of the country. Georgia lost control over both provinces after the war with Russia ten years ago.
Since the end of the Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008, Russia has established permanent military bases in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which account for 20% of Georgia's national territory.
Only Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru and Syria recognize the two breakaway regions as fully independent states. France has always maintained that they are an inseparable part of Georgia.
The two heads of state launched a new bilateral initiative, the "Amilakhravi dialogue", which "will give more density and regularity" to exchanges between Paris and Tbilisi in the political, defense, economic or cultural fields, according to Mr Macron.
The dialogue is named after Dimitri Amilakhvari, a Georgian who arrived in France in 1922 and who joined the Foreign Legion. He died during World War II in Egypt after receiving the Ordre de la Libération from General de Gaulle.
The Franco-Georgian relationship is "essential" in the eyes of Mrs. Zourabichvili, who herself was born in France, and “bathed in French culture” when she grew up after her parents fled the Bolshevik takeover in Georgia in 1917.
She then pursued a diplomatic career at the Quai d'Orsay before embarking on politics in Georgia and being elected president on 29 November, winning 59.52% of the vote.
In 2004, then-president Saakashvili granted her Georgian citizenship with the endorsement of French President Jacques Chirac, and she became Georgia’s foreign minister.
A previous bid to seek the presidency in 2013 was disqualified, due to her holding dual French and Georgian citizenship.
She announced in August last year that France had terminated her French citizenship at her request, so that she could submit her candidacy for the 2018 poll.
“The decision was not simple, but it was necessary,” Zurabishvili said at that time.