U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried said on October 18 that Russia’s sanctions on Georgia “serve no purpose” and pressure on Georgia and Georgians living in Russia “should end soon.”
Fried, the U.S. Department of State Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, held talks with the Georgian leadership and opposition leaders in Tbilisi on October 18. He will leave for Brussels on October 19 where, among other issues, he will discuss the situation in Georgia with NATO and EU officials. After Brussels the U.S. official is scheduled to travel to Moscow.
At a news conference in Tbilisi Daniel Fried said that the United States “very much regrets the recent downturn in Georgian-Russian relations” and added that the current standoff “makes no sense.”
“Economic boycotts and bans, and particularly pressure on people based on their ethnicity, is not what we want to see anywhere in the 21st century. I hope this pressure ends soon. It should end soon. It serves no purpose,” Daniel Fried said.
“I see nothing to be gained by exacerbating tensions between a very large, strong country, which is Russia, and a small country – Georgia, which is seeking to find its way in the world and doing so democratically and through reforms,” the U.S. official added.
He noted that he was “deeply concerned and saddened” about the death of a Georgian man in the Moscow airport prior to deportation. “This is not right,” he said.
Fried said that relations between the two countries will not improve until “both sides make efforts to improve them.”
He also said that the United States shares the EU position reflected in the Conclusions adopted by the EU Foreign Ministers on October 17, which express “grave concern” about Russia’s sanctions against Georgia.
Fried said that the United States is having consultations with Russia regarding Georgia and he personally is engaged in “a regular dialogue with the Russian officials.”
When asked about what Russia’s motives behind the sanctions on Georgia are and whether the issue is discussed during these consultations, Daniel Fried replied: “It is usually not a good idea to talk about confidential diplomatic discussions.”
‘Solve Conflicts Peacefully’
Daniel Fried reiterated U.S. support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and said that there is no solution to the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts “except for peaceful dialogue, negotiation and resolution based on Georgia’s territorial integrity… and on the interests of all the people of these regions, including the refugees.”
“The OSCE, UN, European Union, the United States and Russia all have an interest in the peaceful resolution of this conflict. No party should take any steps which could exacerbate any tensions in these regions,” Fried said.
He also said that Russia “has the ability to play a role, which is constructive and consistent with the Georgia’s territorial integrity.”
‘Kosovo Not a Precedent’
When asked how the United States plans to contradict Russia’s “policy of universality” about setting a Kosovo president, Fried replied: “Very simply.”
“We do not and we will not recognize the independence of either of these territories [Abkhazia and South Ossetia]... This so-called Kosovo precedent is historically false. Kosovo is not a precedent for any other situation; it is unique,” Fried stated.
He also downplayed the independence referendum in breakaway South Ossetia, which is scheduled for November 12.
“Transdnestrian authorities conducted a similar referendum; no one recognized it - it had no effect. No referendum will change the fact that Georgia’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders remains the fact in which we all are working for a good solution,” Daniel Fried said.
No Horse-Trading on UN Abkhaz Resolution
Daniel Fried denied as groundless allegations that the United States compromised on the text of a UN Security Council resolution on Abkhazia in exchange for Russia’s support in resolving problems with North Korea.
“The resolution last Friday extended the UNOMIG mandate, which performs an important role. It is because we think that this monitoring mission is important, we voted for the resolution. It was not a defeat for Georgia,” Daniel Fried said and stressed that the resolution was “a victory for continued stability provided by that UN mission.”
“To say that the United States traded something for something else is an absurd allegation without any foundation,” he added.
Meeting with Opposition
During his visit to Tbilisi Daniel Fried met with the leaders of the New Rights, Republican, Industrialist and Georgia’s Way opposition parties. The U.S. official noted that despite argument with the authorities, the opposition has a consensus about Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
“What impressed me the most is the strong consensus I have heard for Georgia’s western and Euro-Atlantic vocation… [The opposition parties’] job is to argue with the government, but they argue with the government about tactics and not about overall objectives, and so I was heartened to hear what appears to be a strong national consensus,” Daniel Fried said.