Georgia Ends Visa-Free Entry for Iranians
04 July, 2013
Georgia Ends Visa-Free Entry for Iranians
Georgia said Tuesday it has ended its policy of allowing Iranians to enter the country without visas amid concerns Tehran is using a U.S. ally to circumvent sanctions, The Wall Street Journal says. 
According to the article, the decision is part of a broader push by Georgia to distance itself from Iran after it came under pressure from the U.S.
‘In
a statement to the country’s main news agency, IPN, Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had unilaterally revoked a visa exemption for Iranians. Iranians had been able to travel without a visa to Georgia since 2011—only one of three countries in the broader Middle-East and Europe with such a policy.
The absence of a visa requirement had dramatically boosted the number of Iranians traveling to and setting up companies in the former Soviet republic, and increased trade between the two nations.
However, Obama administration officials have been concerned that Iran may be using Georgia to evade mounting U.S. and European sanctions aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program.
Following a Wall Street Journal article last month detailing evidence that Iranians close to the regime had set up companies in Georgia, the Georgian government said it would investigate the information. Georgia’s banks have also tightened conditions for Iranian citizens to open accounts.
Last week, Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s government blitzed Capitol Hill with memos detailing Tbilisi’s commitment to squeezing Iran and stressing his desire to maintain his country’s pro-Western stance.
Tbilisi has sent thousands of troops to support the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. Georgia also has been seeking to gain European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership.
Sara Ghazi, editor of Georgia’s main Persian-language magazine, Aryana, said some Iranians already have been stranded in Armenia as they attempted to re-enter Georgia while others had lost their residency permits without explanation.
Iranian officials, meanwhile, vow to maintain ties with the Caucasus nation. Speaking at an Iranian business conference in Tbilisi, Iran’s deputy ambassador in Georgia, Kebriai Zade, said that Georgia remains an attractive place to invest, particularly for tourism on the Black Sea coast’, the article says.
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