TBILISI, DFWatch — Russia wants to know how Georgia plans to improve relations with its neighbors.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said this while answering questions at a press conference in connection with the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on ministers’ level. A journalist pointed out that Georgia’s new government claims they see possibilities for restoring relations with Russia, but haven’t been met with a response from Russia about under what circumstances Russia could cooperate with Georgia.
Lavrov in his answer noted that the new Georgian government a number of times has said it has a desire to normalize relations with Russia.
“We heard it from the media and we want to understand what and how it is specifically proposed to do. We never broke contact with our Georgian neighbors,” he said.
Lavrov said the Georgian people are Russia’s friends, having much in common in history and culture and humanitarian connections. He said Russia never broke off diplomatic relations with Georgia after the war in 2008, which he called an adventure started by Mikheil Saakashvili.
He drew attention to the opening of direct flights, about the possibility of bringing Georgian products back on the Russian market, humanitarian connections, Russian theaters holding performances with participation by Georgian directors and actors, while Russian artists often visit Georgia.
“For us, in this matter there is no problem, the main thing is that we understood the context in which this is done,” he said. “Our Georgian neighbors say the desire to normalize relations, but confirm that they consider Abkhazia and South Ossetia occupied territories. Probably, this rhetoric is not very conducive to a dialogue without preconditions.”
He added that in practical areas of human communication and economics there are no closed topics.
Georgian foreign minister Maia Panjikidze on Wednesday said that despite disagreement on the question of the independence of Abkhazia and so-called South Ossetia, a Tbilisi-Moscow dialogue sooner or later will take place.
“De-occupation of the country – the main priority of our foreign policy, which will never be changed. However, in spite of our differences with Russia, the dialogue is still possible, and I am sure that sooner or later this dialogue will take place.”
Georgia’s new government wants to take certain steps to start a dialogue with Russia, as the prime minister appointed his special representatives in regulating relations with Russia; however no responsive steps were made from the northern neighbor.
While presenting a new post, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said it will be impossible to start political dialogue as long as there are Russian embassies in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, but it is still possible to start with simpler topics like culture and economy.
Georgia currently is negotiating about readmitting Georgian wines on the Russian market, as well as the mineral water Borjomi.
Zurab Abashidze, who is Prime Minister’s special representative for relations with Russia, responded to Lavrov’s statement by saying that the Russian foreign minister thinks announcing Abkhazia and so-called South Ossetia occupied territories doens’t contribute to restoring a bilateral dialogue without preconditions.
“But I want to remark that Tbilisi doesn’t set any precondition for starting dialogue in a new format. So it is unclear in this context if Russia will demand as precondition to recognize the so-called new realities – which means to get on independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”
Georgia’s special representative considers that radical positions don’t create a perfect background for restoring dialogue but it is necessary to find a way out of entrenched positions.
Many issues like regional security, terrorism, fight against terrorism, humanitarian and trade cooperation are issues which can be reviewed.
“There is no ready or simple ways to overcome the current difficult situation. That’s why we think dialogue is necessary and to find common way out.”