Comparing Crimea with Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is “a big mistake”, Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili said in an interview with BBC on June 11 and added that as far as he knows Russia is "not interested in annexing" these two regions.
Asked if he thinks that Georgia’s breakaway regions can also be “absorbed” by Russia like Crimea, PM Garibashvili responded: “Situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is absolutely different. When people compare the existing situation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Crimea, I think it’s a big mistake.”
He said that these “so called states” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia “want to gain the independence” and Russia recognized them after the August, 2008 war with Georgia.
“According to my knowledge and according to our analysis, Russia is not interested in annexing these two de facto territories,” said Garibashvili, who was in London on June 11 where he attended launch of IPO of TBC Bank at the London Stock Exchange.
Asked about the Russian Foreign Ministry’s warning that Georgia should understand possible consequences of signing the Association Agreement with the EU, PM Garibashvili said that Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin assured that Moscow would not interfere in the process of signature of the Association Agreement between Georgia and the EU.
Garibashvili said that after his ruling coalition came into government after the 2012 parliamentary elections, “we entirely changed our attitude towards Russia.”
“The previous administration of [ex-president Mikheil] Saakashvili had different approach towards Russia, because they had a very radical policy. We made number of constructive steps in order to de-escalate tensions and we did quite well,” he said, adding that de-escalation in relations with Russia resulted into gradual return of Georgian products back to the Russian market.
“I think we created a very interesting precedent and example in the region – on the one hand we want to become part of the European Union… and at the same time we are normalizing relationship with Russia. I think we found a perfect balance,” the Georgian PM said.
Asked about NATO, the PM said: “We made it very clear that Georgia’s aspiration to become a member of the European Union and member of NATO is an irreversible process. Of course we are not that naïve and we understand that it takes time, but I think Georgia made a tremendous progress.”