Georgia and Israel potential energy partners

(messenger.com.ge) - Georgia's intentions to strengthen economic and political ties worldwide continue during President Saakashvili's three-day official visit to Israel.

On November 1, the Georgian president attended an international conference at Haifa University discussing the transit of energy and maintaining its security. Saakashvili spoke about Georgia's strategic importance as a country lying at the crossroads of the east and the west Associated Press news agency reports.

He mentioned the two oil pipelines running through Georgia [Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum] to highlight Georgia's important role in supplying oil to the world. He urged Israelis to invest in Georgia, "Business opportunities abound here [Georgia]," the agency quoted Saakashvili as saying.

According to reports, Israeli Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer also spoke at the conference, proposing the extension of an existing pipeline from Central Asia through Georgia to Turkey, ending up in Israel. This would turn Israel into a "key energy transit point" through which oil and natural gas could be sent to the far east, in India and China, instead of being shipped around the African continent.

"I have ideas about a mutually-beneficial infrastructure of gas and oil pipelines, starting in Azerbaijan and running through the territories of Georgia, Turkey, the Mediterranean sea and ending in Israel," he said RIA Novosti agency reported.

Israel aims to play a key role as an energy transit point between Central Asia, the Middle East and the far eastern markets of India and China

"My dream is to place the state of Israel in the first tier of countries in the field of energy, using Israel's strategic location in the Middle East," Ben-Eliezer said.

Saakashvili also spoke about Georgian-Russian relations and linked the current Russian sanctions against Georgia to the 18th century czarist edicts against Jews.

"The discriminatory Russian policy against Georgians is reminiscent of czarist policies depriving Jews of their property and this is one of the reasons that Georgians and Jews understand each other on a visceral level," Saakashvili said.

After an address at Haifa University, the university conferred an honorary doctorate on Saakashvili.

Saakashvili's agenda also includes a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Speaker of Parliament Dalia Itzik. A scheduled meeting with the Israeli President Moshe Katsav was cancelled, due to poor health of the Israeli president.

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