President Saakashvili said on October 27 that Russia’s economic embargo is making Georgia stronger, but also expressed his readiness to hold a dialogue “at the highest level” with Moscow to ease tensions.
Saakashvili was visiting Kakheti, a region in eastern Georgia, and speaking at the opening of a new winery there.
He said that opening of “this ultra-modern factory is a very important and very symbolic step not only for this region, but for all of Georgia” against the background of Russia’s embargo.
Russia banned imports of Georgian wine in late March, 2006.
“Wine is one of our major sources of income, especially in Kakheti, and the organizers of this embargo knew this very well… The aim of this embargo was to make people angry about their government and to make people come out into the streets… But those who were behind this scenario made a huge mistake,” Saakashvili said.
“This factory is our response to the embargo,” he added.
Saakashvili said that Georgian society and business circles showed “a huge sense of solidarity” by buying large amounts of grapes.
He said that wine-producing factories in Georgia bought 35 000 tons of grapes in 2004, while more than 70 000 tons were purchased by wineries in 2005. He noted that this year 43 000 tons of grapes have already been purchased by wine-producing factories, with more than 120 000 tons of grapes bought by other factories and businesses, including juice producers.
“This means that despite this embargo, almost all of the grapes in Kakheti have been sold,” Saakashvili said.
“Our ill-wishers will never be able to defeat Georgia through economic measures. Moreover, we will be grateful towards the initiators of this economic embargo, because they have taught us to find new markets, to produce better quality products, and they have taught us not to make mistakes any more. It is very positive that this embargo was imposed now and not three years later,” Saakashvili said.
“Georgia is moving ahead and nothing can stop this, but of course we will have obstacles on this road… We have no right to stop now, because we know that we want peace and prosperity. This is our platform and action plan. No one will ever be able to make us turn in the wrong direction,” Saakashvili said.
He condemned the anti-Georgian campaign in Russia and said that it is harming Russia itself.
“We should start a dialogue on a highest level… We will talk with everyone like equal partners and as citizens of free states, but we will never appeal to anyone like slaves,” Saakashvili said.
Saakashvili added that he does not expect any disruptions in the energy supply to consumers in Georgia this winter, “because we are already prepared.”