On March 11, 2021, Geocase, a Georgia-based think tank, and the Gulf Research Center, an independent GCC-based research institute, organized a joint webinar entitled “Georgia and Saudi Arabia: Relations and Opportunities”. The aim of the event was to explore the current political and economic relations between Georgia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as the realities, challenges, and prospects in the context of regional developments.
The discussion was moderated by Victor Kipiani, Chairman of Geocase.
H.E. Abdullah bin Hajjaj Al-Mutairi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Georgia, and H.E. Vakhtang Jaoshvili, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, addressed the audience with welcome notes and underlined the importance of strengthening friendly relations in order to facilitate successful development of political, economic, social, and cultural ties between the two countries.
During the discussions, Kipiani put a special emphasis on the fact that it was the very first joint event in the context of cooperation between the research and analytical think-tanks from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Georgia. He briefly summarized the intensified diplomatic and economic relations between Saudi Arabia and Georgia as well as people-to-people contacts facilitated by having direct flights between the two countries and the non-visa regime for the nationals of Saudi Arabia.
“We are witnessing plenty of opportunities in the fields of economics and business. Trade turnover was steadily increasing during the last period… there was an increase of 21 million USD from 2020 and there is clearly room for further growth. As for investments, we have a relatively brighter picture. It is notable that Saudi Arabia is among the largest investors in Georgia from the Gulf. With foreign direct investment to Georgia from the Kingdom exceeding a hundred million USD, clearly deepening business and commerce ties with Saudi Arabia would be extremely helpful for promoting our cooperation with the Gulf Cooperation Council members/nations too… We have a good start, but hopefully we'll have much bigger and more interesting opportunities down the road. And we are very much committed to carrying on implementing those opportunities,” Kipiani said.
He also extended thanks to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for supporting Georgia at the level of the United Nations and various international platforms. “This is extremely important support and we have to thank you indeed for that support and friendship,” Kipiani mentioned.
Distinguished speakers Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, Chairman of the Gulf Research Center, Dr. John Sfakianakis, Program Director - Economic Research, Chief Economist, Gulf Research Center, and Emil Avdaliani, Non-Resident Fellow at Geocase, presented speeches and shared their views on scientific, cultural, tourism, and business bilateral opportunities of Georgia and Saudi Arabia.
In terms of political and geopolitical aspects, significance of regional stability and security as well as close cooperation with the Western world were particularly pointed out.
“There are several areas of cooperation between the two states which could be improved in the coming years,” Avdaliani stated. “Cooperation in tourism is crucial, but much more could be done on that front. Then comes cooperation in the military sphere where Georgia has been providing military cars to Saudi Arabia since 2016. Other possibilities would be to create a joint Georgia-Saudi Joint Commission on Cooperation, which would allow both states to target expansion in the economy, investments, technology, military cooperation, trade, etc.”
Avdaliani continued: “Potentially Tbilisi could also host something similar to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-Georgia business forum. This potentially could include all six members: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman, and will help to pinpoint areas for deeper cooperation beyond simple bilateral trade ties. One such area might be investments into Georgia’s infrastructure. As a part of the Central Asian-South Caucasus corridor, Georgia is a critical road and rail link to the lucrative European, Chinese, and Russian markets. This has already led to sizable investments in the transportation infrastructure, but much more needs to be done.”
It is worth mentioning that the webinar was the first event organized in the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Geocase and the Gulf Research Center on November 17, 2020. The organizations intend a close and proactive cooperation to strengthen the partnership between the international community and the governments of the Gulf region and Georgia to tackle the issues of peace, security, and sustainable development.
*The full version of the webinar was available only to those who had registered to attend online.
Watch the extract from the webinar here