Georgia’s new government “acts pragmatically” and Moscow is ready to deepen economic ties with Tbilisi, “but not at the expense of betraying our brothers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on February 25.
He made the remarks while speaking with students from Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow.
When during a question and answer session a student from breakaway South Ossetia told the Russian Foreign Minister that she wanted to hear personally from him reassurance that “no threat poses to the sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia amid warming relations between Russia and Georgia”, Lavrov smiled and then responded: “President Vladimir Putin has already spoken about this issue directly and unambiguously and I can only reconfirm it.”
“I think that emergence of this issue in itself is strange, because we have secured the possibility for the existence of the Republic of South Ossetia and the Republic of Abkhazia,” Lavrov said, adding that if President Saakashvili had managed to regain control over South Ossetia in August 2008, “Abkhazia would have been the next in line.”
He said that there were possibilities of achieving agreements with Georgia over Abkhazia and South Ossetia before the August, 2008 war, but those attempts, he said, were undermined by Saakashvili.
Lavrov said that even immediately after the war Russia was still thinking there was a chance for an agreement. “But when Saakashvili announced that there would definitely be revenge, when he said that he was not even going to discuss the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – though we were ready to hold special discussions with the participation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and to talk about the status, but after his statements the bridges were burned and we saw no other option [than to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia],” Lavrov said.
“It was unanimous decision of the Russian leadership and it is not a subject of revision,” he added.
He said that Russia had actually “never cooled” its relations with the Georgian people.
“It is our close neighbor, brotherly nation,” Lavrov continued. “We were not going to fence ourselves from the Georgian people or isolate Georgian people. But Saakashvili’s regime made a decision to cut off diplomatic ties.”
“Now, the new government of Georgia is acting pragmatically and if there is an interest in further development of economic ties – which have never been suspended completely; in the sphere of energy and other fields our companies have been working there – if there is any interest in developing humanitarian links, air communication we are ready to develop interaction in these spheres, but not at the expense of betraying our brothers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This will never happen,” Lavrov said.
Meanwhile it was announced on February 25, that Georgian PM Ivanishvili’s special representative for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, will meet Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin in Prague on March 1.
It will be second meeting between the two diplomats after Georgia’s new government announced about its intention to mend ties with Russia.
Abashidze and Karasin met in Switzerland in December in what were the first direct talks between the diplomats from the two countries since the August, 2008 war.
Abashidze says that his talks with Karasin are ongoing without touching upon Georgia’s “red lines” – territorial integrity and freedom in choosing its foreign policy course; Abashidze says that talks instead focusing on the issues on which it is possible to make progress, including in the areas of trade, economy, as well as humanitarian and culture issues.