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Tbilisi Says Rhetoric Toned Down with Russia, Time to Move Forward
/ 31 Jan.'07 / 18:15
Civil Georgia

President Saakashvili told the Russian ambassador who returned to Georgia after four months of absence that “sobriety has prevailed” recently in bilateral relations and Tbilisi is ready “to deepen dialogue” with Moscow after Russia lifts sanctions on Georgia.

Vyacheslav Kovalenko, who was appointed as Russia’s ambassador to Georgia in July 2006, met with President Saakashvili to submit his credentials on January 31. Russia sent him back to Georgia in January, four months after he was recalled over a spy row with Georgia.

“Russia is interested in a stable situation in the Caucasus, in the resolution of conflicts, which are holdovers of the past. We will undertake all the necessary measures to solve these problems in a fair manner. I want to ensure you, Mr. President, that in my new capacity [as ambassador] I will contribute to the development of mutually beneficial and fruitful cooperation between our countries,” Ambassador Kovalenko told President Saakashvili.

In his response the Georgian leader emphasized that relations between the two countries have always been shaped by “traditionally mutual sympathy” between the Russian and Georgian people and by a “mutual historic destiny.”

These remarks were in line with a statement Russian President Vladimir Putin made while meeting with Ambassador Kovalenko in Moscow on January 18. “For many centuries our countries have shared a unique destiny,” Putin said.

President Saakashvili told the Russian Ambassador that he can only welcome his return and made it clear that the next step should be the resumption of air, sea, land and railway links with Georgia, which were suspended by Russia last October.

Georgian transport officials and executives of Georgian air carriers are expected to visit Moscow on February 5-6 to negotiate with Russian officials about the possible resumption of transportation links between the two countries.

“We have noticed that rhetoric has been toned-down and sobriety has prevailed recently in our relations. And we hope that after we remove all the restrictions imposed [on Georgia], we are ready to build relations and deepen dialogue over all the issues which are of mutual interest, including regional security, bilateral relations,” Saakashvili said.

After meeting with President Saakashvili, Russian Ambassador Kovalenko said that despite Russia’s conciliatory moves, Tbilisi is still trying to mount anti-Russian campaign. He cited the recent uranium smuggling case as an example.

“Relations between our countries should be built based on mutual respect and fairness. Russia adheres to this principle while dealing with Georgia, and we expect reciprocal moves by Tbilisi… But there is no such move yet. Moreover, recently we have witnessed deliberate misinformation about some kind of smuggling case of uranium from Russia,” Ambassador Kovalenko told reporters.

He said that these kinds of “attacks on Russia” do not contribute to resolving the problems between the two countries.

Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili, who was also present at the credential handover ceremony, reiterated that Tbilisi does not want to politicize the uranium smuggling case.

“We can only reiterate that more cooperation is needed between the states over these kinds of issues, and I can say that there are already positive signs. You know that the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office has already launched its investigation into the case,” Bezhuashvili told reporters.

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