Zurab Nogaideli, ex-PM and now leader of opposition Movement for Fair Georgia party, is in Moscow to, as he said, hold meetings with representatives of Georgian, Abkhaz and Ossetian communities in Russia.
In an interview with Moscow-based Echo Moskvy radio station on October 26, Nogaideli said the visit was part of his attempt to launch “public diplomacy” and a priority was confidence-building in order to prevent reoccurrence of the August war. He also said that his goal was to build contacts and prepare ground for implementing of his party vision in respect of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the event his party came into power.
“If Saakashvili had a dialogue with Abkhazians and Ossetians, I would not have come here at all. It is clear that wall between Georgians and Abkhazians and Ossetians is being built not only by those [Russian] military bases, which are stationed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but also, unfortunately, by Saakashvili and his circle,” he said.
Nogaideli said that issues related with the two region’s status “can be and should be discussed later.”
“I do not know when this issue can be discussed, but first of all we should start with discussing issues related to averting the war and to excluding resolving of the conflict through forceful means,” he said.
He also said that dialogue should be launched without any preconditions and added that return of refuges and displaced persons should not either be put as a precondition for launch of the dialogue.
“To put this issue as a precondition is now totally senseless. Return of refuges is eventually of course our major issue and it should become part of negotiations. But it should not be a pre-condition [for starting talks],” Nogaideli said.
He said that Tbilisi should restore economic ties with Tskhinvali and Sokhumi to help “bring these regions out from economic isolation.”
“Of course they are not completely isolated now, as they have trade ties with Russia; but only with Russia,” Nogaideli continued. “I think we should restore normal economic relations not only between [Abkhazia; South Ossetia] and rest of Georgia, but with rest of the world as well… Bus traffic should be restored between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali; and railway link with Abkhazia should also be restored… Planes should be flying from Sokhumi airport and I’d like the first flight to be not to Moscow, Istanbul or Brussels, but to Tbilisi.”
He also said that direct talks with Abkhazians and Ossetians would not be “accomplished with concrete deeds, if simultaneously there is a confrontational policy towards Russia.”
“It is obvious, that in order to have a success in talks with Abkhazians and Ossetians, absence of current confrontational relations with Russia is required,” Nogaideli said.
He said that Russia’s current position that it would only start direct talks with Georgia only after new authorities come into power in Tbilisi was counterproductive.
“This position of Russia puts not only entire Georgia, but also the Georgian opposition in a difficult condition and because of that any type of contact with Russia becomes rather difficult. In fact I am the first one among Georgian political leaders who arrived here [in Moscow] and this step is fraught with some, if not with serious, [political] risks,” he said.
Asked about his party’s vision on NATO integration, Nogaideli responded: “Major goal of foreign and domestic policy will be reunification of Georgia; all the rest are possible mechanisms for resolving this problem.”