Georgia’s ruling party leader visits China in push for deeper ties

By Felix Light

TBILISI (Reuters) – The leader of Georgia’s ruling party began a six-day visit to China on Monday, as the European Union candidate member country seeks to deepen its relations with Beijing, Georgian media reported.

Georgian media reported that Irakli Kobakhidze, the chairman of the governing Georgian Dream bloc, met the head of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Department on Monday.

Kobakhidze stressed the need to deepen Tbilisi’s political and economic relations with Beijing, and to fully implement a partnership agreement signed between the two countries last year, Georgia’s Interpress news agency reported.

China is a major investor in Georgia, with Chinese companies currently building a new highway linking Tbilisi to Georgia’s second city, the Black Sea port of Batumi.

Georgia’s government has, in recent years, tried to combine pursuing its long-held goal of European Union membership with deepening relations with China and Russia, with whom the EU has strained ties.

Tbilisi declined to follow Western countries in introducing sanctions against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, and last year allowed Russian airlines to resume direct flights to Georgia, which had been broken off in 2019.

When granting Georgia candidate status in December, the EU said that for the country to progress to future membership, Tbilisi must bring its foreign policy into closer alignment with Brussels.

(Reporting by Felix Light; Editing by Christina Fincher)