Members of the Government of Georgia, Vice Prime Ministers Tea Tsulukiani and Irakli Chikovani, have expressed criticism towards President Salome Zurabishvili who, according to them, failed to congratulate Ilham Aliyev on his victory in the recent presidential elections of Azerbaijan.

“The President of Georgia's continued silence, refraining from extending congratulations to Mr. Aliyev on his electoral victory, I believe, is detrimental to our state,” stated Minister of Culture, Sports, and Youth Tea Tsulukiani in response to a question posed by a journalist from the TV company Imedi.

Tsulukiani characterized the president's stance as a “political blunder”.

“We wish to remind our president that this region has witnessed heightened geopolitical and security risks in recent years. The Georgian government is currently taking measures to mitigate these risks. Despite this, the president, in her capacity as commander-in-chief, refrains from extending congratulations to the commander of our neighboring, partner, friendly state on his electoral victory,” stated Tsulukiani.

“This decision is politically bold, albeit regrettable. I believe that Salome Zurabishvili continues to receive and execute directives from certain individuals. We must address this issue. The president's objective should be to ensure the security of our country, foster friendly and cooperative relations with neighboring states, including Azerbaijan, and mitigate risks. Unfortunately, it seems her objective is quite the opposite, resulting in increased risks and economic threats. This is regrettable, to say the least,” added Tsulukiani.

Furthermore, Tsulukiani refuted the explanation that the delayed congratulations were since the victory had not yet been officially confirmed. She cited an instance when President Zurabishvili congratulated Mr. Macron before official confirmation of the election results, deeming it appropriate and welcome at the time.

Newly appointed Defense Minister Irakli Chikovani expressed his bewilderment at Salome Zurabishvili's inaction, particularly given Azerbaijan's status as a strategic partner of Georgia.

“On another note, it is a matter of basic diplomatic etiquette that such congratulations should have been extended well in advance. I believe this omission undermines the interests of our state and the objectives of our strategic partnership with the Republic of Azerbaijan. Furthermore, I consider it a profoundly unwise decision. However, this may be part of a certain agenda which the president has been following for some time, adhering to specific directives,” stated Irakli Chikovani.

The administration of the President of Georgia declared that “the President of Georgia congratulated the President of Azerbaijan, like the President of all friends and partner countries, with an official letter on his election to the post of President.” As the administration noted, Zurabishvili sent a letter to Aliyev on February 9.

On February 7, early presidential elections were held in Azerbaijan, resulting in Ilham Aliyev securing his position as the country's president for the fifth term, garnering 92% support. He will serve for an additional 7 years.

The opposition has rejected the election results, asserting that they do not reflect the will of the people and are illegitimate due to the absence of competition, pervasive pressure, fear, and intimidation during the voting process.

The OSCE/ODIHR stated that the elections were well administered, but lacked political pluralism, as some opposition parties boycotted the process. “While six other candidates participated in the campaign, none of them convincingly challenged the incumbent president’s policies in their campaigns, leaving voters without any genuine alternative. Civil society and opposition representatives noted that the legal framework and its implementation make it difficult to enjoy their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to hold public gatherings, both in the run-up to the election and outside the campaign period,” as articulated within the report issued by the observation mission.

Ilham Aliyev has held the presidency of Azerbaijan since 2003, succeeding his father, Heydar Aliyev.

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