TBILISI, DFWatch – Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili Monday responded to a Russian invitation to reestablish diplomatic relations by saying Georgians will fight Russia in the parliamentary election this fall.
Saakashvili is being challenged in October’s election by a new coalition headed by a native billionaire who made his fortune in Russia during the 1990s.
Like Russia couldn’t win the blockade and war against Georgia, so it won’t win the democratic fight, Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili said in a speech at Telavi Development Project, evoking the specter of Russian interference in Georgian politics.
He said Russia has tried everything against Georgia, including wine embargo and energy embargo, but Georgia withstood the economic embargo and goes forwards with small steps.
Georgia withstood the war too and the final victory will be getting freed of Russian armies, he said, speaking in a part of the country known for its wine.
“Russians can come here and spend the money on what they have prohibited to their own country,” he said. Georgian wine is still subject to a Russian embargo dating back to 2006, but Russians can travel to Georgia without a visa, following a recent decision by Georgia to cancel visa requirements for Russian citizens.
Russia answered by proposing to cancel visa requirements for Georgians who travel to Russia, and reestablish diplomatic relations, if Georgia can guarantee that Russians coming to visit won’t be prosecuted under the law regarding border crossings. Georgia responded by settings as condition for negotiation that Russia pulls back its troops from Georgia breakaway regions and cancels the decision to recognize them as countries.
In a development unrelated to Saakashvili’s Kakheti speech, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs today issued a statement saying that the ministry was disappointed with the reaction from Tbilisi to the Russian proposal to restore diplomatic relations.
“In response to our proposal to restore diplomatic relations with the Georgian side, the Georgian side once again exposed the pre-condition for the abolition of formal recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” the statement from the Russian ministry says.
Regarding visa freedom, which was also proposed earlier by the Russian side, the statement says that Georgia responded by advising to pursue its own policy of unilateral visa free regime for Russian citizens. Russia considers it unacceptable because, the statement of the Russian MFA says, it is normal for small countries to not have visa freedom with many countries to attract more tourists, however, when a larger country does the same in response, ‘this is done on the basis of formal bilateral agreements.’
The statement further makes note of the fact that Russian citizens who have been in Abkhazia or South Ossetia are considered criminals, according to a Georgian law which makes it illegal to cross the border between Russia and any of Georgia’s breakaway regions.
The Russian foreign ministry writes that when Georgian officials are making speeches about being interested in restoring bilateral relations, it is just ‘a propaganda ploy designed to create the appearance of constructive and peace’, moves which it argues cannot be taken seriously.
The ministry also responds to a speech Saakashvili held in the parliament of neighboring Azerbaijan, in which he warned against Putin’s new plan to establish a Eurasian Union, claiming it was an attempt to resurrect the Soviet Union. The speech was criticized by one of the parties represented in Azerbaijan’s parliament, and a political scientist said he thought it was unfortunate that the Azerbaijani lawmakers were not given the chance to comment after Saakashvili’s speech.
“Manic hostility, combined with the inherent Georgian president’s delusions about own greatness, have resulted in a call to all peoples of the former Soviet Union ‘to hold each others hands’ to fight against Russia,” it says, continuing “truly sorry that this little messenger of delirium was given a tribune of the parliament of our friendly state.”
However, the end of the statement still says that despite the hostility of official Tbilisi, Russia ‘remains open to any constructive steps to normalize Russian-Georgian relations.’