President Saakashvili met his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow on February 21. The meeting was held behind closed doors, but both men spoke in front of the press immediately beforehand.
President Putin said that there had been positive trends in bilateral relations recently. He told President Saakashvili: “We were happy to hear you say that the Georgian leadership is well disposed towards [improved relations] and will try to respond in kind. As far as I know, our aviation authorities have agreed to remove all disagreements between our countries. I mean, first of all, the payment of outstanding debts. It means that it will be possible to resume air traffic, as well as to settle other issues, which have emerged previously. I think we will take the opportunity of your visit in the framework of the CIS summit and discuss this and other problems – we have quite a few [problems].”
President Saakashvili said: “I am very glad to be here at this summit [of CIS leaders]. As this is your last term as president and your last CIS summit, I did not want to miss this opportunity [to meet]. I want to express my regret that you could not come to Georgia as President. I invite you to make one of your first visits as Prime Minister. We will be very glad. As far as I understand, a protocol has been signed and the abnormal situation of no direct air flights between Russia and Georgia, will end. I think we are moving forward in respect of Georgian exports. This issue is very important from a political point of view. I think there are lots of other issues on which Russia and Georgia should move closer. We are obliged to normalize our relations, to overcome previous difficulties. We really hope that positive trends observed at the beginning of my first term – which were later sidelined – will be resumed. And if we do not start our relations from scratch, we should at least give new momentum to our relations, because we all want it and pin our hopes on it.”
The meeting was also attended by the Georgian and Russian foreign ministers, Davit Bakradze and Sergey Lavrov, respectively, as well as former Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili, who now is chief of the intelligence department. Officials have yet to comment on the outcome of the meeting.