Georgia to open cultural center in Jerusalem
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                  Georgia to open cultural center in Jerusalem

                  Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely with Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili and Israeli Ambassador to Georgia at Zourabichvili's inauguration in Tbilisi in 2018.

                  Georgia to open cultural center in Jerusalem


                  Georgia is set to become the eighth country to have a mission to Israel in Jerusalem, announcing plans to open a cultural center in the capital.

                  “We welcome the center’s opening,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office said.

                  The Georgian Embassy’s spokesperson said they do not yet know when or where it will happen, and that the particulars are still being discussed.

                  Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely praised the decision, saying that “more and more countries are joining the historic process that began with the US, and are recognizing the historic connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem.” She added that, “as a daughter of immigrants who came to Israel from Georgia, I am proud of this move and hope it will be completed with the [Georgian] embassy moving to Jerusalem.”

                  There are an estimated 250,000 Jews of Georgian descent – the vast majority of whom live in Israel. In 2018, Hotovely asked Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, “in light of the deep and longstanding friendship” between the countries. The two agreed to begin a dialogue on the subject. Zourabichvili plans to visit Israel next month for the World Holocaust Forum, along with many other world leaders.

                  The news comes less than two weeks after Brazil opened a trade office in Jerusalem, with President Jair Balsonaro’s son, MP Eduardo Balsonaro, inaugurating the new site and promising that his country will move its embassy to the capital.

                  Netanyahu and the Foreign Ministry have made a concerted push to have countries recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move offices and embassies there, escalating their efforts, with help from Washington, after US President Donald Trump announced in 2017 that he would be moving the American embassy to the capital.

                  At the time, Georgia’s Foreign Ministry said it was “closely monitoring the developments as this issue is being widely discussed internationally, including at the United Nations.” The message also said that it would consult with its partners, and called the US its strategic partner. America is a key ally for Georgia, aiding the former Soviet republic in its war with Russia in 2009.

                  The US and Guatemala have their embassies in Jerusalem, and Honduras is expected to move its embassy to the city in the coming weeks. Honduras, Hungary, Australia, Brazil and the Czech Republic have trade offices in the capital, and Slovakia and Ukraine are also expected to open such offices.

                  By LAHAV HARKOV