Leading members of Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party have scrambled to apologise to China, after President Salome Zurabishvili appeared to suggest the Chinese Premier, Xi Jinping, should face prosecution.
The president’s office released a translation of Saturday’s interview with French TV station CLI, which was conducted in French. Zurabishvili was reportedly asked if she hoped the Chinese and Russian leaders would face prosecution — Putin, for crimes against humanity, and Xi Jinping, for the genocide of the Uyghurs — with the journalist adding: ‘Putin, of course, first of all, because it concerns you more’.
Zurabishvili responded that this would be a ‘historic result’, while adding that she did not believe it was realistic. On Tuesday, Zurabishvili’s office met with the Chinese President and claimed that the president’s statement concerned only President Putin, and that ‘the entire interview was focused on Georgia-EU relations, Georgia and Russia’.
This came after a flurry of criticism from Georgian Dream.
On Monday, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili met with Chinese Ambassador Chou Tsien, where he reportedly expressed ‘concern’ over Zurabishvili’s comments.
‘The Prime Minister expressed his regret for the statement of the President of Georgia and hoped that the said statement of the President would not affect or damage the highly positive relations between Georgia and China historical dynamics’, the Government Agency said in a statement.
Other members of the ruling party were also quick to condemn the president and defend relations with China.
‘Zurabishvili’s statement about the Chinese President was shameful, for which the government had to apologise’, Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze said on Tuesday.
Georgia’s relations with China have grown increasingly warm in recent years. This summer, the Georgian and Chinese leaders agreed to ‘elevate bilateral relations to a strategic partnership’ during a week-long visit by Gharibashvili to China for the 31st World Summer Games of the International University Sports Federation. Critics warned the agreement could endanger the country’s relations with the West.
[Read on OC Media: Georgia seeks closer ties with China]