A woman walks past the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. InterPressNews file photo.
If Russia genuinely wants to strengthen ties between the two nations it should reciprocate to Tbilisi’s unilateral move on lifting visa requirement for the Russian citizens without putting forward “politicized preconditions”, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said on March 3.
Moscow said on March 2 in response to Georgia's unilateral lift of visa requirements for Russian citizens, that it was ready to reciprocate, but called on Tbilisi to revise its law on occupied territories.
In the same statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry, Moscow also said it was ready to restore diplomatic relations, cut by Tbilisi after the August, 2008 war. Georgia responded, that the proposal contained “elements of political show”.
“Georgia would have welcomed if Russia reciprocated with lifting visa requirements for the Georgian citizens. The initiative would have truly strengthened relations between the two nations. But instead of doing that, the Russian government put forth number of politicized preconditions that questions Russia’s readiness to reciprocate,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“Russia has used elements of political show when made a proposal to restore diplomatic relations with Georgia. Restoration of diplomatic relations obviously will only be possible if only one embassy of the Russian Federation is located on the internationally recognized territory of Georgia instead of three as it is now [in Tbilisi, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali],” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.
“President Saakashvili and the Georgian government have expressed readiness for multiple times to hold a dialogue with Russia anytime, at any level, that would make it possible to discuss issues, which divide the two countries,” it said.
“In the list of these issues also are: occupation of 20 percent of Georgia’s sovereign territory by Russia; campaign of ethnic cleansing, which made over 400,000 Georgians displaced in the own country, as well as recognition of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia.”
“Carrying out substantial dialogue on these issues represents a necessary precondition for full restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.
“Result of comprehensive dialogue between Georgia and Russia should be not only restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, but also withdrawal of Russian troops from the illegally occupied Georgian territories, implementation of August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement and recognition of both countries’ internationally-recognized borders.”
“We are sure, that de-occupation of Georgia’s regions… as well as recognition of Georgia’s territorial integrity by Russia will naturally lead to restoration of diplomatic relations,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.
President Saakashvili also said in televised remarks on March 3, that restoration of diplomatic ties depended on Moscow.
“Diplomatic ties with Russia were cut automatically as a result of Russia’s actions, when Russia stopped recognizing Georgia as a sovereign, independent state in August 2008,” Saakashvili said at the Vaziani firing-ground outside Tbilisi where he attended a presentation of the Georgian-manufactured multiple rocket launcher.
“These relations will be restored automatically as soon as Russia recognizes Georgia within its sovereign borders. It was not our initiative to cut these relations and I reiterate that it was caused by Russia’s actions. Now, restoration [of these ties] is in Russia’s hands, but it is done not by such declaration that they are ready [to restore diplomatic ties] – if they are ready to restore, they should at first do what is to be done for such restoration,” Saakashvili said.
“As far as visa-free rules are concerned,” he continued, “we have lifted visa rules because there are a lot of Russian citizens of Georgian origin, including hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and a part of them is still in Russia, for whom we have eased travelling to Georgia, and secondly, we’ve done that for that part of the Russian society, which is interested in arriving in Georgia, traveling to Georgia, Georgia’s tourism, investing in Georgia, visiting their friends and acquaintances in Georgia – simply, this is a very clear confirmation of openness of our society, firmness of our society.”
“We are always ready to hold a dialogue with Russia, without any preconditions, on full scale settlement, which will be based on de-occupation of Georgia, recognition of territorial integrity of Georgia and return of half a million of Georgian citizens to their homes, who cannot return there because of ethnic cleansing carried out by Russia,” Saakashvili said.
“Regardless of who will be in power in Russia, who will win these [March 4 presidential] elections or who will be declared Russia’s next president, we are ready to sit down with any leader of Russia and talk about these issues, but these are quite concrete issues. These issues cannot be replaced by other issues.”
“Of course, present government of Russia believes and even in Georgia there are such elements, who believe that we should not talk about occupation – such elements represent in Georgia only a very small marginal minority; they do not represent an absolute majority of Georgian society; they will always stay in minority owing to their positions.”
“Therefore, if Russia wants a dialogue with Georgia, it should talk with the Georgian society, which believes that Georgia’s de-occupation is the most decisive moment and occupation cannot be a natural condition. This is our position and this is a clearly expressed position of the international community,” Saakashvili said.