National / Politics

Abe backs Georgian leader Margvelashvili in seeking peaceful end to conflict with Russia

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili signed a joint statement Friday to declare “solidarity for peace and democracy” and call for a peaceful settlement to his nation’s row with Russia over Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

“We reiterated Japan’s position to support peaceful solution of the issue based on the principle of territorial integrity of Georgia,” Prime Minister Abe told reporters at his office following a summit with the Georgian leader.

Russia took control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008 and set up quasi-states, according to Margvelashvili.

According to Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not occupied territories, but independent states.

“We are thankful to the Japanese government for supporting us on one of the most problematic issues, supporting the peaceful resolution of the occupied territory issues in Georgia,” Margvelashvili said, adding the region currently faces “further attempts of annexation.”

At a speech Tuesday in Tokyo, the 45-year-old president claimed that Russia is trying to take over every function of the quasi-states and is integrating them socially, militarily, politically and judicially.

The joint statement said Japan and Georgia “oppose any unilateral attempts to change Georgia’s internationally recognized borders.”

On a different note, Abe said the Japanese government is willing to comply with Margvelashvili’s request to not use “Gurujia” when referring to his country. Gurujia derives from the country’s name in Russian. Margvelashvili is requesting that Japan use the English name Georgia instead.

Margvelashvili appreciated Abe’s response.

“We are thankful to Japanese government for considering our request of changing the naming, the sounding of our country.”

Georgia has been making the request since around 2009, according to a Foreign Ministry official.

Tokyo was reportedly reluctant to comply because people might confuse the country with the U.S. state of Georgia.

On the economic front, Abe pledged to provide grant aid to promote Georgia’s development, though he stopped short of mentioning the amount. He also said they agreed to expand trade and investment between the two countries.

Earlier in the day, Margvelashvili met Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

Margvelashvili arrived Japan on Tuesday, making his first visit since he was elected president in October 2013. He will conclude his five-day visit on Saturday.

Margvelashvili served as provost at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs from 2000 to 2006 and from 2010 to 2012 before being appointed as Minister of Education and Science in 2012.

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