TBILISI, DFWatch–The Georgian president says he is ready to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin if bilateral relations between the two states will be on the agenda.
A meeting between the leaders of the two countries which broke off relations after fighting a brief war in 2008 has been a topic since a comment by Putin at the Sochi Olympics almost a year ago.
Putin since raised the issue several times through 2014. Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili responded that he was going to ‘carefully and seriously analyze’ Putin’s statement.
Then in April, the Georgia government and the president declared that there were no preparations for meeting Putin, but that the Georgian side was ready to talk if the topic would be ‘painful issues’, which was taken to mean the two breakaway republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia which have been propped up by Russia for two decades.
After the war in 2008, Russia recognized the regions as independent countries, but just a few other nations have followed suit.
On Sunday, Margvelashvili said on the talkshow Reaction on Imedi TV that he will of course meet Putin if relations between the two states will be on the agenda, otherwise he cannot see under what conditions the two can meet.
The host asked him whether Putin is an enemy or not.
“Putin is a leader of a state, with which we, I must revise and attempt to mend Russo-Georgian relations. This is who Putin is for me,” Margvelashvili said, adding that Russia’s policy is hostile and aggressive towards Georgia.
“Putin for me is a person, with whom I hope, at some point rational relation will be established.”
The president recalled that there are two format of talks with Russia today: the Geneva talks and the Abashidze-Karasin meetings.
The latter are carried out by two top diplomats who have met regularly since the change of government in late 2012 to discuss non-political issues like economy, culture, transport.
December 26, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili was also asked during a press conference whether Putin is an enemy of Georgia. He responded that the question was provocative and prepared by the National Movement, the party headed by ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili.
“We don’t provoke, but treat issues with responsibility,” he said, adding that he is confident that if Saakashvili was still president there would be war in Georgia and a worse situation in Ukraine than there is now.
“This is a reality and as for the issue who is an enemy and who is not: What would please you? I don’t plan to make stupid statements.”
Saakashvili and Putin met once shortly after the Rose Revolution in 2003, but relations deteriorated when Georgia detained four Russian diplomats and accused them of being spies. In response, Russia established an embargo on Georgian wine and agricultural products, formally justified by sanitary standards, and launched a massive deportation of Georgians living in Russia.
After the current coalition came to power, Georgian export to Russia was resumed after successful negotiations through the Abashidze-Karasin talks, leading to a boost in wine export.