Moscow “values” Georgia’s willingness to contribute to the security of the Sochi Winter Olympic games, but despite of “all the signs of improvements” in bilateral ties, Georgia’s refusal to recognize “realities” that emerged after the August 2008 war will remain a “constraining” factor for the relationship, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on January 21.
Asked during a news conference in Moscow what are the prospects for restoration of diplomatic relations with Georgia and if Russia would lift visa requirements for the Georgian citizens, Lavrov responded: “Prospects do not depend on us; Georgia was an initiator of cutting diplomatic ties, so it would be better to ask this question to Tbilisi.”
“I have already commented on that issue [of visas] and President Putin has also spoken about it. In principle we are in favor to maximally ease contacts between the people, but of course it can only be considered in the broader context of our relationship, including the issue you mentioned [diplomatic relations]. Absence of diplomatic relations, constrains whole range of other issues of cooperation. But not everything depends on formalities; there is no diplomatic relations and that’s why everything is blocked – that’s not the case. The major problem is that we cannot change those realities which were created after the war, unleashed by Saakashvili,” Lavrov said referring to Russia’s recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“Attempts to make progress in our political ties conditional to Russia’s reversal of recognition of those realities have no prospect and are counterproductive and fruitless,” the Russian Foreign Minister said.
“Although there are all the signs of improvements in our relations – in trade, transport communication and people-to-people contacts… and we also value our Georgian neighbors’ aspiration to contribute to the security during the Sochi Olympics – when it comes to practical issues, very often we run into this problem of Georgia’s non-recognition of realities which are in the region. Time after time it will be impeding and constraining our relationship compared to what could have been achieved. We are open for the closest contacts in various fields, but with taking into account of existing realities, which cannot be changed,” Lavrov said.
Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi on January 21, Georgia’s Foreign Minister, Maia Panjikidze, reiterated that Georgia’s territorial integrity is “a red line” which Tbilisi will “never” cross in its relationship with Moscow.
“Normalization of relations with Russia will not happen in determent to this [principle],” Panjikidze said, adding that efforts should be directed towards resolving differences between Moscow and Tbilisi and “achieving change of the situation sooner or later”.
She also noted “progress” made with Russia over the past one year, involving reopening of the Russian market for the Georgian products.
“We hope that these relations will continue and affect positively on political situation as well,” the Georgian Foreign Minister said.
She also said that Georgia offered Russia cooperation for the security of the Sochi Olympics. “This offer was conveyed to Russia for number of times through Mr. Abashidze [Georgian PM’s special envoy for relations with Russia]; we have not received any concrete response from Russia,” Panjikidze said.