- PM hopes his ‘calm, patient and consistent rhetoric’ will work;
- ‘I try very much not to be categorical in respect of Russia’;
- ‘I am ready and willing to meet Putin’;
- He said Georgia will participate in 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics;
- PM comments on law on occupied territories;
PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said that he was optimistic about improving ties with Russia and added that his government was pursuing “calm, patient and consistent rhetoric”, which would yield better results than tough-worded one.
Speaking at a news conference on December 24, Ivanishvili said that there had already been some positive signals from Moscow, particularly in respect of trade relations. He cited remarks by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said on December 20 that trade ties between the two countries, including import of Georgian products on the Russian market, should be “de-politicized”; following day Russia’s first deputy foreign minister, Andrey Denisov, said that from the political point of view the issue of entry of the Georgian products on the Russian market was resolved, but “only purely technical procedures” were remaining.
When asked during the press conference if he was going “to demand” from Russia to allow Georgian products into the Russian market as part of Russia’s WTO obligations, Ivanishvili responded that he was trying not use wordings with demands.
“I try very much not to be categorical in respect of Russia, although there might be many reasons for being such,” he said. “I try very much to have calm, patient and consistent rhetoric. You’ve seen their [Russian authorities’] recent statements about having this obligation [in respect of trade with Georgia].”
He said that previous government’s tough rhetoric and demands towards Russia brought negative results.
“I hope that with calm, constructive, but principled position we will have better results… I think it is possible to have better results with more patience and less emotions; let’s see how this strategy will work,” PM Ivanishvili added.
He also said that the process of improving relations with Russia would be difficult, “but I am very optimistic.”
“It will develop very positively, but we should not expect that it will happen immediately, although nothing is ruled out. It is important that we should take care of our country, we should be consistent and constructive and I hope that step-by-step we will improve relations with our large neighbor,” Ivanishvili said.
He reiterated his position that Georgia should participate in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic games and added that it was in line with his efforts to improve ties with Russia.
“I have discussed it with my team and of course we will participate in the Sochi Olympic Games,” Ivanishvili said.
The Georgian PM also said that he was ready and willing to meet President Putin, but there were no immediate plans for that yet.
“Yes I am ready and I am willing to meet Putin, but such meeting requires proper preparations, which is not in place right now,” Ivanishvili said. “I think that such meeting will take place, but I don’t think that it will happen soon, although nothing is ruled out.”
“Situation is difficult. Going out of this deadlock [in relations with Russia], which our President [Mikheil Saakashvili] has greatly contributed to, will not be an easy process,” he said.
Asked about the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which Georgia quit after the August 2008 war with Russia, Ivanishvili responded that Georgia should have good relations with all the members of CIS.
“Our strategy is Europe and the Euro-Atlantic space and we are not going to change this strategy. At the same time we should improve and deepen our relations with all the countries which are CIS members,” he said and added: “We will use any form, which will not impede our strategy [towards Euro-Atlantic integration].”
During the press conference, Ivanishvili was also asked whether his government was intending to revise Georgia’s law on occupied territories, specifically one part of this law which regulates legal points of entry into the breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Ivanishvili responded that no decision was yet made on this issue.
In early March, 2012 after Georgia unilaterally lifted visa rules for Russian citizens, Moscow responded that it would reciprocate if Georgia revised its law on occupied territories. At the time the Russian Foreign Ministry said, that Georgia's law on occupied territories was making “significant part” of Russian citizens subject to criminal prosecution upon the arrival in Georgia. It was referring to the provision of the law which makes it illegal in Georgia to enter into breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia from territories other than those controlled by Tbilisi; the law also sets whole set of exceptions to this rule. Violation of the law can result into a fine or a jail term from two to four years.
Responding to this issue of law on occupied territories, PM Ivanishvili said that he had discussed it with his special representative for relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze and the issue was also touched upon during a meeting between Abashidze and Russian deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin in Switzerland on December 14.
“We do not yet have an answer on that. We try to address this issue and to remove this inconvenience and to ease the process. We have not yet decided,” Ivanishvili said.