The Georgian authorities responded today to the March 12 statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry, which described Archil Tatunashvili’s death as “a regrettable incident,” and welcomed “the spirit of continuing and deepening the process of bilateral normalization,” as well as Tbilisi’s willingness to launch “direct dialogue with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”
In a brief statement released on March 13, the Georgian Foreign Ministry stressed the importance of the Geneva International Discussions “for resolving the Georgian-Russian conflict,” and expressed hope that during the next round of negotiations the sides would manage “to take concrete steps for exiting the deadlock that has been ongoing for years, and for resolving the conflict peacefully.”
The Georgian Foreign Ministry also called on the Russian Federation “to take steps to ensure the immediate transfer of Tatunashvili’s body.”
Georgian Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze commented on the matter as well, expressing his regret that Moscow failed to meet Tbilisi’s “pragmatic approach with a pragmatic approach of its own.” “Full responsibility for Tatunashvili’s murder rests on the Russian Federation as the party exercising full control [over the occupied region],” Kobakhidze said, adding that he hoped Moscow would act “constructively,” and transfer Tatunashvili’s body to his family.
Zurab Abashidze, the Prime Minister’s special representative for Russia, said Moscow “tried to distance itself from Tatunashvili’s murder” with its statement. “We would like to clarify that, what’s important for us is that Tatunashvili’s body is immediately transferred to his family, and not general statements and remarks; the Russian side cannot avoid responsibility for what has happened,” Georgia’s chief Russia negotiator noted.
Abashidze also stated that Tbilisi had used all international measures to secure the transfer of Tatunashvili’s body. “The only lever that was left was to appeal to the Russian leadership, and the Prime Minister took this step too,” he added.
Speaking on the statement, Reconciliation Minister Ketevan Tsikhelashvili said it was “not the first time that, in the Russian political translation, what’s real is replaced by what’s desirable [for Moscow].”
“There was no reference to direct dialogue with Abkhazia and South Ossetia [in Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s statement] … and I am sure the Russian elite understands this full well,” Tsikhelashvili said, clarifying that the Prime Minister’s appeal meant launching dialogue with the Abkhaz and the South Ossetian societies, “the people we would like to live together in the future.”
Parliamentary Opposition parties commented on the matter as well, with the United National Movement saying Moscow’s response was the result of Tbilisi’s “unprincipled and appeasing” policies towards Russia.
“When Prime Minister Kvirikashvili is making treacherous statements, when his ministers do not recognize [Vladimir] Putin as an enemy, when the people who are murdering our citizens beyond the occupation line are not held accountable and the ruling party does not want to adopt principled and effective resolutions in the Parliament, of course, these steps will be followed by cynical statements, like the one we have heard yesterday,” MP Tina Bokuchava said.
Earlier, UNM demanded PM Kvirikashvili’s resignation for his “capitulating concessions” to Moscow.
The European Georgia criticized the government as well, with Giga Bokeria, one of the leaders of the party, saying PM Kvirikashvili gave Russia an “additional argument” against Georgia “owing to his senseless, irresponsible, and naïve appeal.”
Bokeria also said Russia would use Kvirikashvili’s “direct dialogue” proposal with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali in the future as well, and would demand Georgia to keep its promises, “through rejecting Russia’s responsibility for the terrible murder [of Archil Tatunashvili], and through launching the so called bilateral dialogue with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali.”