We express our gratitude to Kuwait for being committed to UN principles

H.E. Konstantin Zhgenti
Ambassador of Georgia

By Reaven D’Souza
Managing Editor

Ambassador of Georgia H.E. Konstantin Zhgenti is a seasoned diplomat with an infectious smile. His straightforward and direct approach in his discussions makes him popular with diplomats and friends. Ambassador Zhgenti is also clear in his analysis of situations and this gives him a considerable edge in his interactions.

In a recent far-reaching interview with the Managing Editor of The Times Kuwait, the Georgian ambassador expressed his pleasure at representing his country in Kuwait and noted that bilateral relations have steadily increased over the years. While discussing diplomatic and political relations with Kuwait, the ambassador also delved into Georgia’s relations with neighboring Russia, and how the events currently unfolding in Ukraine had its first rehearsal in Georgia.

Ambassador Zhgenti began by narrating what led him to choose diplomacy as a career: “I was at school when I read the book of French diplomat Armand-Louis-Augustin Caulaincourt, Napoleon’s Ambassador to the Russian Empire, where he was retelling his discussions with Napoleon, sitting in a sleigh, escaping from Russia. While reading this book, I decided to be a diplomat and ambassador. Fortunately, I have materialized my dream, but I began to work as a diplomat only after Georgia regained independence in 1990.

“So I have been a diplomat for 32 years, from the first day of the Independence of Georgia. During this period, I have served in Italy, Austria, Hungary, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and now in Kuwait. By education, I am Historian-Orientalist. I have been in Kuwait since September 2019 and as I have mentioned about my education, it was not very difficult for me as an Orientalist to deal with Kuwait’s traditions and life. Kuwait gave me a very warm welcome. People here are very friendly.

“As for the leadership and Government of Kuwait, I want once more to underline that the late Amir His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, may his soul rest in peace, His Highness the Amir of the State of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah, may God save him, the Crown Prince His Highness Sheikh Mishaal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah and the Kuwaiti Government, have always given full support to me in my efforts to develop relations between Georgia and Kuwait.”

Asked about any challenges he faced as a diplomat in previous postings the ambassador said, “I cannot say that I had any very special difficult challenges during my career, but an ambassador’s work is full of small or big challenges everyday. I think that the most difficult task in all countries was convincing the Governments of those countries that the Cold War is not totally over and Russia will renew its traditional policy. Now I think they will agree that I was right.”

Turning to his country’s relations with Russia, and the post-communist era in Georgia, Ambassador Zhgenti emotionally noted: “My country gained its first independence in 1918, after the collapse of the Russian Empire, but soon in 1921, we were reoccupied by the Russian Red Army. Second time and I hope forever, we regained our independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But Georgia soon became the first country, which fell victim to Russian military aggression after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This happened not just during the Georgian-Russian war of 2008, but already in the beginning of the 90’s of the previous century, when Russia, together with Abkhaz and South Ossetian separatists, occupied part of the territories of Georgia and then announced their so-called “independence.

“From the beginning of the regaining of our independence, Georgia was under Russian occupation and in spite of 20 percent of our territory being still occupied, and we are living under permanent provocations from Russia and the separatists from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region, our country is developing with quite impressive speed. All figures of The World Bank, IMF and other international organizations confirm this fact. We have signed an Association Agreement with the EU. We are much closer to the Euro-Atlantic Community membership, which is the final aim of our people and our government and is reflected in our Constitution. We are following friendly, but pragmatic and realistic policy with our neighboring countries and in our wider region.”

Turning to bilateral political and economic relations with Kuwait, the ambassador noted that the investment climate in Georgia was favorable for investors from this country, adding: “This year is special in Kuwaiti-Georgian relations. We are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. From the very first years when these relations were established, they have been steadily developing, as has our political relations and cooperation with leading international organizations.

“We express our gratitude, once again, to Kuwait, for being unwavering and committed to those UN principles, with regard to independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of states and non-interference in the domestic affairs of others. We are also successfully cooperating in terms of supporting each other’s candidatures in the UN and various international organizations. I hope that political and other relations between our countries will be further strengthened as a result of the forthcoming high-level visits between the two countries.

“As for bilateral economic and cultural relations, as well as relations between the people of Georgia and Kuwait, there are increasing ties, especially since Kuwaiti airline companies, Jazeera Airways and Kuwait Airways began conducting direct flights between the two countries. We are grateful to the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, which has already funded an important project in Georgia and we hope that this cooperation is going to grow further. We are also hoping to expand cooperation between the Kuwait Investment Agency and the Agency Invest in Georgia.

“On the food front, import of meat from Georgia to Kuwait has been going on for quite a while, and recently Georgian meat products have appeared in such well-known store chains as the Sultan Center. We hope that other ecologically clean agricultural products from Georgia will join the meat products.

“Direct flights have enabled us to develop relations not just in the sphere of tourism, but also in business, trade, education and cultural directions. Georgian professors and teachers have been working successfully at the higher education institutions of Kuwait for quite a long time, while Georgian students are studying the Arabic language.

The National Center of Manuscripts of Georgia has preserved many ancient Arabic manuscripts, which we periodically exhibit in Kuwait. We hope that these relations will also develop even more. “With regard to cultural cooperation, we organized the exhibition titled, ‘Georgia through the eyes of Arab painters’, which is another clear proof of cultural relations between our countries.

These works of art were done by Kuwaiti female artists, during their visit to Georgia. During their stay in Georgia, they also met with their Georgian colleagues and I hope that we will also be able to see an exhibition of their works in Kuwait in the future.” Clarifying on trade figures with Kuwait, the envoy noted: “According to the figures for the seven months of 2020 trade volume between our countries was USD1.26 million. This was 36 percent more than the previous year. I cannot say that our bilateral trade volume satisfies us, and I am sure that the Kuwaiti side will agree with me, but we both are trying to give a new impulse to our economic and business relations.

I see that more and more Kuwaiti businessmen are interested in activities in Georgia. They are buying private property and trying to find new fields of business activities.” Expanding on the tourism potential of Georgia and its many attractions that could draw visitors from Kuwait, Ambassador Zhgenti said: “Georgia has a huge tourism potential. We have mountains as well as sea-side touristic resorts.

Tourism in Georgia is developing every year and figures prove this, especially before the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately the pandemic regulations and restrictions had its repercussions on tourism in Georgia, just as it had on other countries around the world.

“But within the relatively short span of time since the easing of pandemic restrictions, the number of tourists to Georgia have increased by 120 percent. From Kuwait, tourists began to come to Georgia after the Kuwaiti air carriers, Jazeera Airways and Kuwait Airways, began direct flights between the two countries, and
the number of visitors from Kuwait is increasing year by year. In the beginning of this month, flights were already conducted by the Georgian air company and many citizens of Kuwait had the opportunity of spending the Eid al-Fitr holidays in Georgia.”

Concluding with his thoughts on Kuwait and its future, Ambassador Zhgenti said: “I have already mentioned about the pandemic and its impact on tourism, but the health crisis also had a severe negative effect on the global economy and businesses everywhere. Of course, Kuwait could not avoid these repercussions, but I hope that in the near future, under the wise leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah, the Crown Prince His Highness Sheikh Mishaal AlAhmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah and the active work of Kuwaiti Government, Kuwait will overcome these difficulties. I am sure that Kuwait will continue its successful development in all fields of its life.

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