Moscow wants to know what exactly Georgia's new government is offering in order "to normalize" ties between the two countries, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on December 4.
He made the remarks when asked at a news conference in Brussels after the NATO-Russia Council meeting about statements of Georgia's new government on its willingness to, as journalist put it in his question, "resume relations with Russia without preconditions" and what where those areas in which and terms on which Moscow would cooperate with Georgia.
"Georgia's new leadership has publicly stated for several times about willingness to normalize relations with Russia and in overall with neighbors in the region. We've actually heard about it through media sources and we want to understand what specifically is being offered to do and how," Lavrov responded.
"We have never shunned away from contacts with the Georgian neighbors. Georgians are friendly people for us; we have much in common in history, in culture, as well as in humanitarian ties. It was not us who cut diplomatic relations with Georgia after the adventure, which was launched by Mr. Saakashvili by attacking South Ossetia," he said.
"We have stated for several times that we will be ready to consider resumption of shipments of agriculture products from Georgia provided that they meet requirements set by the Russian Federation in respect of this kind of imports."
"Humanitarian relations have not been suspended. Russian theaters are regularly staging plays with participation of Georgian directors and actors; our artists are attending relevant events on the Georgian soil," the Russian Foreign Minister said.
"So there are no problems for us in this regard; important is to understand the context in which it is taking place."
"Our Georgian neighbors are speaking about aspiration to normalize relations, but they reiterate that they consider South Ossetia and Abkhazia to be occupied territories," Lavrov said.
"This kind of rhetoric probably is not very conducive to launching of, what you said, a dialogue without preconditions. I repeat that in practical areas of people-to-people contacts, economy there are no closed issues for us," he added.
On November 1, one week after taking PM's office, Bidzina Ivanishvili appointed Georgia's former ambassador in Moscow, Irakli Abashidze, as his special representative for relations with Russia.
“They [the Russian authorities] have their red lines which they do not intend to cross and they have said that they would not retract recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We also have our red lines," said Abashidze on November 1, adding that those 'red lines' where Georgia's territorial integrity and its freedom to choose its alliances in terms of Euro-Atlantic integration.
"But before approaching these red lines, our position is that there are other problems where we may find common ground – these are trade, cultural and humanitarian issues,” Georgian PM's special representative said.
Russian Foreign Ministry said on November 3, two days after PM Ivanishvili appointed his special envoy, that Moscow was now expecting from Tbilisi to take unspecified “concrete practical steps.”
In late November, PM Ivanishvili expressed regret that Russia had not yet made a step that would be “equivalent” to the one of his “worthy” decision to appoint PM’s special representative.
“I think little bit later Russia will analyze better [his decision about appointment of special envoy],” Ivanishvili said. “The response that was from [Russia] that we should take more concrete steps – I cannot imagine what else I can do, so we are waiting for Russia to take steps."
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