Screengrab from Russian state Channel 1 interviewing Georgian president-elect Giorgi Margvelashvili.
In an interview with Russian state Channel 1 Georgia’s president-elect Giorgi Margvelashvili said he has yet to decide whether to attend or not the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
In the interview, broadcast by Russia’s Channel 1 on Sunday, Margvelashvili said the two countries should start mending ties from discussing issues on which agreement is possible with the view to then move towards having “good neighborly relations” in the long run. He said that the August 2008 “discredited” outgoing president Saakashvili, who, as he put it, “created problems”, but Saakashvili’s factor, Margvelashvili added, was not relevant any more as it was already past. Margvelashvili also said that Russia will benefit from stable Georgia and its European integration.
At least twice during the interview Margvelashvili mentioned congratulation that he received on his election victory from the head of Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. The Georgian president-elect said he was “pleased” by this congratulation, which, he said, demonstrated strength of people-to-people contacts between the two Orthodox Christian nations even in the condition of absence of diplomatic ties between the two states.
“It highlights the fact that wounds made by politicians must be healed by the people, by spiritual people, and people who are oriented towards good neighborly relations and towards those cultural ties which existed between our two nations,” Margvelashvili said.
“How to start it? I think the answer is in elementary truth that there is no need to obstruct it; as soon as politicians stop obstructing people, people of good will, as soon as we, the politicians, are able to create conditions for business, cultural relations, family ties, and ties on emotional level, it will bring results,” he said.
Asked if he’s ready to take “the first step, step of good will”, Margvelashvili responded: “We have already made this step.”
“We made the first step in the context of lowering tensions,” he continued. “We said that Russia, regardless of problems that existed, does not represent for Georgia a target of our aggression; we have declared that we will try to move our dialogue from aggressive relationship into a rational framework and we have also made relevant steps.”
He said that PM Ivanishvili appointed his special envoy for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, who launched talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin to discuss cooperation in trade, humanitarian and cultural issues.
Margvelashvili also mentioned in this context Georgia’s decision to participate in the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. In overall, Margvelashvili said, the Georgian government has “removed tense background.”
Asked if he personally is going to attend the Sochi Olympics, Margvelashvili responded: “We are considering this issue; this issue is open and is being considered within our team.”
He said Olympic Games represent “a good start” for not having political tensions, which can give an impetus to “new relationships.”
“We are starting from a very problematic point, we are starting from the point where we regrettably already have those tragic events [apparently referring to the August, 2008 war]. Now we will try not to inflict pain on each other, we will try to speak about the problems that can be resolved today and to speak about perspectives and the perspective should get back to the point of good neighborly relations. What are the Russian interests, what are the Georgian interests, what are the interests of those people who suffer there and let’s resolve these issues – I think time has to pass. Yes, Saakashvili was discredited by this war, so what? Who in Russia will care about these certain intrigues ten years later? A Russian wants to arrive to Georgia and Georgians to arrive in Russia and to have cultural ties… No one cares any more that Saakashvili created problems; that’s already past, including for Russia too,” Margvelashvili said.
He said that reopening of Russian market for Georgian products was a very positive development; he also said that “all the conditions are in place” in Georgia for the Russian businesses to develop in Georgia.
“We are also creating new frameworks, we are creating opportunities for the Russian businessmen to invest in Georgia as a country, which will have free trade with Europe,” Margvelashvili said, referring to Tbilisi’s aspiration to have the Association Agreement with the EU, which also includes deep and comprehensive free trade agreement.
Asked how Georgia plans to take into account Russian interests while aspiring to integration into Europe, Margvelashvili responded: “Georgia’s integration and association with Europe, from our point of view, represents Russia’s interest; stable country on its southern [border] actually creates opportunity for deepening of relations and for stable development for the Russian Federation too, which by the way also has active [ties] with the Europe.”
“We see only positive in this context for Russia, so I think Russia’s interests are taken into account in this regard,” he said.
“There is a stable political situation in Russia and there is a stable situation in Georgia too and it’s a good precondition to start resolving issues,” Margvelashvili said.