FM Zalkaliani Says ‘Happy’ over Ukraine Autocephaly

Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani says he is “happy” over the granting of independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

“We are happy and we welcome every step that strengthens the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the FM said in his press remarks on January 16, making him the only government official to have officially welcomed the development.

“We welcome this not only declaratively, but through our actions – over the past period, Georgia has expressed its support multiple times, through joint declarations and a joint UN resolution,” he noted, stressing Ukraine remains Georgia’s strategic partner.

Similar messages were voiced by two Georgian Dream lawmakers on January 15.

“This is not a religious matter only; this is yet another confirmation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, and I congratulate our Ukrainian friends and the Ukrainian people,” said Tamar Khulordava, chair of the Committee for European Integration.

“The issue of the [Ukrainian] autocephaly and relations between the patriarchates are internal church affairs. Personally, I can only express my happiness – this is yet another step in strengthening the sovereignty of Ukraine,” said Deputy Speaker Tamar Chugoshvili.

FM Zalkaliani’s remarks come less than two weeks after Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze announced that Georgian authorities will refrain from voicing their position until the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate concludes its official stance on the matter.

The decision was later reiterated by President Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani, Healthcare Minister Davit Sergeenko and several Georgian Dream lawmakers, earning them heavy criticism from opposition parties.

In a press briefing on January 15, MP Giga Bokeria of the European Georgia party said the government has to voice its clear position on the independence of the Ukrainian Church.

“Pointing fingers at the church is fundamentally incorrect… the state authorities are accountable to the public, and they have to voice their position [before the public] – they have to state what their position is and why they have such position,” he stressed.

The lawmaker added that reluctance of Georgian authorities to congratulate the Ukrainians “has direct consequences for Georgia and is detrimental to its international positions.”

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