Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, who visits Georgia as part of his trip to three South Caucasus states, said after meeting with his Georgian counterpart, Grigol Vashadze, on June 15, that the two countries had “frequent, strong and good bilateral relationship”.
Bildt said that amid upcoming Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw in September, during his trip to the South Caucasus states he primarily focused on relations between the European Union and the three states of the region, as well as on democratic reform process.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Georgian counterpart, the Swedish Foreign Minister said that the recent progress report by the EU on implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy showed that Georgia “is the country in this part of the Eastern Partnership that is doing the best in terms of performance.”
“I hope that the others will catch up although standards are somewhat different both in Azerbaijan and in Armenia,” Bildt said.
Together with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine are part of Eastern Partnership, initiated by EU in late 2008 to deepen ties with its eastern neighbors.
The previous time the Swedish Foreign Minister visited Georgia was in late March, when he inaugurated the Swedish embassy in Tbilisi and Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze met with Carl Bildt in Sweden on May 16.
Carl Bildt, who before talks in Tbilisi arrived in Georgia’s Black Sea resort town of Batumi on June 14, wrote on his blog, that although he planned to discuss with the Georgian officials issues related with the conflict with Russia, the focus of the talks would be “the need for democratic and economic reforms” to pave way for closer integration with the European Union.
Later on June 15, the Swedish Foreign Minister met with representatives of those opposition parties, which make group of eight – a coalition cooperating jointly on electoral system reform. Opposition politicians said after the meeting that they raised the need for an investigation of break up street protest rally on May 26 and discussed the issues related with electoral system reform.
At the end of his visit Bildt wrote on his Twitter page: “Georgia making good progress on democratic developments and economic reforms. But concerns remaining.”
Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, said at the joint news conference, that his Swedish counterpart was “firm supporter” of Georgia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and its European choice.
Asked about Tbilisi’s warning that it would consider walking out of Geneva talks if Russia continued “terrorist attempts” against Georgia, the Swedish Foreign Minister responded that although no dramatic progress was expected from those talks, the negotiations should continue.
“The Geneva talks are important not that they are producing dramatic progress – I really did not expect that, but it’s important to have them ongoing, because they can gradually contribute to a better atmosphere,” Bildt said.
But question must be raised about “attempts interdicted on the Georgian soil,” he said and added that diplomatic channels would be used “to try to get the answers that we don’t have at the moment.”
The Georgian Foreign Minister said that not a single Georgian official had ever said that Tbilisi would halt talks. Vashadze that what the Georgian chief negotiator in the Geneva talks, Giga Bokeria, said was that terrorist attempts on the Georgian territory “are endangering Geneva talks.”
“But we never said that we are going to stop those talks; we are not stopping them. We are simply telling to Russia, that you can not have two tracks – training and sending terrorists into the country and then talking to us in Geneva about security arrangements,” Vashadze said.
After the sixteenth round of Geneva talks on June 7, the Georgian negotiators said that Tbilisi would cease its participation in the talks if Russia continued plotting terrorist attempts on the Georgian territory. The Georgian Interior Ministry announced on the eve of the sixteenth round of Geneva talks that it foiled a terrorist attempt outside the NATO liaison office in Tbilisi allegedly plotted by a Russian office based in breakaway South Ossetia and week earlier the ministry said that it thwarted a terrorist attempt which was allegedly masterminded by another Russian officer based in breakaway Abkhazia.
“The Georgian side does not intend to discuss the security, or humanitarian issues related topics with Russia in Geneva, or elsewhere, while Moscow continues to mastermind terrorist attacks on the territory of Georgia,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a written statement after the sixteenth round of Geneva talks.