President Medvedev speaks with (from left to right) Alexei Venediktov of Ekho Moskvy; Ekaterina Kotrikadze of PIK channel and Sophie Shevardnadze of Russia Today channel in Sochi, August 4. Photo: Russian President's website.
In a joint interview with Russian and Georgian media outlets, Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev, said an agreement with Georgia on Russia's WTO entry terms could serve as a potential starting point for restoring "normal" trade ties between the two countries and then possibly of diplomatic relations as well.
The interview was conducted few days before the third year anniversary of the August war by Ekho Moskvy radio station, Russia's English-language TV channel Russia Today and Georgia public broadcaster's Russian-language news channel PIK (Perviy Informatsionniy Kavkazsky, the First Caucasus News) in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi on August 4.
'WTO Not Worth Changing Reality on the Ground'
Dmitri Medvedev said, that Russia would not accept if Georgia tried to push for changing "reality" on the ground in exchange of its go-ahead for Moscow's WTO membership.
"I think, that if the Georgian leadership shows wisdom, that [an agreement on Russia's WTO entry terms] is one of those issues which may become a common ground, that could serve for launching restoring normal trade-economic relations and after that diplomatic relations too. That would be good in this regard, but ball is now in thier [Georgia's] court," Medvedev said.
He, however, also stressed, that WTO would not become bargaining chip and Russia would in no way accept if Georgia tried using this issue for changing "political reality" on the ground; Medvedev said "even WTO membership" was not worth it. Under the "new reality" in the region, Russia usually refers to, what it calls, creation of "two new independent states" - Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Medvedev said that in the Swiss-mediated talks over WTO, Georgia was trying to push the issue of control of border-crossing points and thier monitoring by EU.
"Our position is simple: if you want to know about movement of goods, including about transit goods moving through Abkhazia and South Ossetia, we are ready to provide such information,including in digital form, in the state of the art form. I have agreed on that with the Swiss President and I discussed the issue with President Obama yesterday. In this regard we are ready to accept the Swiss proposal," Medvedev said.
President Saakashvili said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio station on July 8, that the Georgian authorities did not want "to resolve all of our problems at the expense of [Russia's] WTO [accession]."
Saakashvili also said that accepting Tbilisi's demand for international monitoring of trade across disputed border will be "minimal price" for Russia to pay for joining WTO.
Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said on July 12, that transparency of trade across Russia’s border with Abkhazia and South Ossetia “can be ensured the way which satisfies everyone.”
Medvedev said that Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, should be tried by an international tribunal because of unleashing war in South Ossetia in August, 2008; he, however, also said that such a scenario was not real.
"I think, that it was a flagrant violation of norms of the international law; but taking into consideration that it would hardly be possible to rely only on Russia's position, I think, creation of such a tribunal is not real right now. So history will conduct final trial and interim trial will be conducted by the Georgian citizens - they will decide how and in which direction to proceed," Medvedev said.
Medvedev said Saakashvili's claim that Russia threatened Georgia with war long before August, 2008, when Putin allegedly warned him with "Cyprus model" was "a bullshit". "Saakashvili says lot of things; often he even fails to control his speech," Medvedev said.
He also said that Saakashvili's claim that the Russian President was shunning away from talking with him while in the Kazakh capital Astana in early July, 2008, was "fairy tale." "It's difficult to shun away from him; he's 'sticky'," Medvedev said, adding that in Astana Saakashvili approached him for multiple times and they discussed possibility of a bilateral meeting.
'Saakashvili is Non-Handshakable'
Medvedev reiterated that he would not have contacts with Saakashvili because of unleashing war in South Ossetia in which Russian citizens were killed. "I can't forgive him that," Medvedev said, adding that Saakashvili "is non-handshakable."
He, however, also reiterated that Moscow was ready for talks with any other Georgian officials on various issues.
"Sooner or later Saakashvili will no longer be the President... and the new President will have a chance to build normal, productive relations with Russia," Medvedev said.
He said that Saakashvili "is a person who does not deserve respect" and if the Georgian people decide to have him as a leader for many years that would not have a positive affect on bilateral relations.
He also said that Saakashvili should be "grateful" to him because he had ordered Russian troops to stop and not to take over Tbilisi during the August war.
"If they [the Russian forces] have entered into Tbilisi, Georgia would most probably had someone else as the President," Medvedev said, adding that he ordered the troops not to take over Tbilisi because the purpose of the operation was "to stop Georgia's aggression". He said that overthrowing Saakashvili was not part of the plan "although it was very easy to do."
He said that Russia has "fulfilled with 100 percent" its commitments under August 12 ceasefire agreement; he, however, acknowledged that there was disagreement on this issue between Russia and EU, "but there is nothing you can do about it."
Medvedev stopped short of directly accusing then U.S. President George Bush and his administration of "pushing" Saakashvili to launch the war; he said he had no firm evidence of that. He, however, said that Saakashvili stopped contacts with Moscow after then U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Tbilisi in July, 2008.
'Indifferent to U.S. Senate Resolution'
Medvedev downplayed U.S. Senate's resolution, which describes Abkhazia and South Ossetia as regions occupied by Russia, saying that he was "absolutely indifferent" to its wording.
"I think that these formulations by the Senate are not based on anything," Medvedev said. "They reflect taste aspirations of certain elderly members of the Senate, who are sympathizing certain individuals because of their subjective reasons... That's a legislative body of a foreign country and I'm absolutely indifferent to these formulations."
'No Prerequisites for S.Ossetia to Join Russia'
Medvedev said that now there were "no prerequisites" for South Ossetia to join the Russian Federation.
"It's impossible to predict what will happen in the future, but if we are talking about the current situation, there are neither legal nor factual prerequisites for that," Medvedev said.
Speculation intensified whether it is possible or not for breakaway South Ossetia to join Russia's North Ossetian Republic, after PM Vladimir Putin said, while responding a question on this issue on August 1, that it was up to the people of South Ossetia to decide its future.
'Kremlin Offered to Invite Georgia TV'
Medvedev's spokesperson, Natalya Timakova, told Russian news website, Gazeta.ru, that Ekho Moskvy radio station had requested an interview. Ekho Moskvy ran series of reports on Georgia recently also including an interview with President Saakashvili in which the latter said that he had "much in common" with Medvedev, but the major difference was that Medvedev "is not a decision-maker."
Timakova said that would be "too much honor" for Saakashvili to describe Medvedev's interview as a response to the one of the Georgian President.
She said that Ekho Moskvy requested an interview with Medvedev to talk about Moscow's position towards Georgia. She also said that it was the Kremlin's idea to also invite a Georgian media outlet and Ekho Moskvy recommended PIK channel. "That's Russian-language channel and it is watched in the Caucasus," Medvedev's spokesperson said.
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