After years of jostling among the regional giants, the United States and Russia, officials in Georgia seem intent on recruiting a new player for the regional geopolitical game -- Iran.
Georgian and Iranian officials announced a flurry of initiatives in mid-May. Aside from the cancellation of visa requirements for Iranian citizens traveling to Georgia, Tehran has offered investment in a hydropower plant and electricity imports; Tbilisi is also seeking wind-power cooperation. The proposals are currently under discussion with Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri. In addition, Tbilisi extended an invitation to Washington’s bête noire, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to visit Georgia. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki may visit Georgia in June to work out specifics of the new cooperation framework.
Coming amid heightened global tension stemming from Iran’s controversial nuclear program, the announcements coming out of Tbilisi at first glance may have caught Western observers off-guard, especially given that President Mikheil Saakashvili administration’s has maintained a staunchly pro-American policy.
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Giorgi Lomsadze is a freelance journalist based in Tbilisi. Molly Corso provided additional reporting for this story.