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Residents of Tbilisi burn Slovak ribbon on the wreath after confusion

IN A CASE of mistaken identity, a group of people close to Beso Gazdeliani, deputy governor of the Samgori district in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, burnt a ribbon in the colours of the Slovak flag on a wreath laid by the delegation led by Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák. As it turned out, they thought the ribbon was Russian, Georgian news agency InterPressNews reported on April 9.

IN A CASE of mistaken identity, a group of people close to Beso Gazdeliani, deputy governor of the Samgori district in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, burnt a ribbon in the colours of the Slovak flag on a wreath laid by the delegation led by Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák. As it turned out, they thought the ribbon was Russian, Georgian news agency InterPressNews reported on April 9.

Lajčák came to Tbilisi on the occasion of opening a new embassy there.

The Slovak delegation laid the wreath at a memorial of a bloody Soviet crackdown against Georgian protesters on April 9, 1989.

The Georgian Foreign Affairs Ministry condemned the incident. Gazdeliani, who does not hide his anti-Russian sentiments, said that he thought that the ribbon was Russian, as the Slovak and Russian flags have the same colours. He however refused to apologise, claiming that the Slovaks themselves are to blame.

“I respect the Slovak delegation and their country, though it is their mistake,” Gazdeliani told InterPressNews, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “They had to know that this would cause a certain reaction. Burning the ribbon was not my personal reaction, but of the people there. Nobody has to apologise; it is a misunderstanding caused by the inattentiveness of the group who did this. We can of course do nothing but thank the Slovak delegation for paying tribute to the fallen heroes.”

Meanwhile, Lajčák and his Georgian counterpart Maia Panjikidze attended the official opening of the Slovak embassy in Tbilisi on April 8. Previously, Georgia has been administered from Ankara, Turkey.

Opening the embassy in the Georgian capital was a logical step, as the Eastern Partnership belongs among priorities of Slovak diplomacy, Lajčák said.

“We want to be directly present in these countries,” the minister added, as quoted by TASR. He also said that currently Slovakia has its embassies in four of the six Eastern Partnership countries: Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and now in Georgia.

The new embassy began to operate on March 24 under the leadership of Rudolf Michalka. It is based in the premises of the European Union delegation, the first such cooperation between Slovakia and the EU. According to Lajčák, it is an example of a modern European foreign service model.

“It means that we save the cost for rent and maintenance of the building, and we will use the logistics support of the EU delegation,” Lajčák said, as quoted by TASR, adding that this year the Foreign Affairs Ministry also plans to move its embassy in Nigeria into the premises of the EU delegation.

Source: TASR

Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports

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