Tbilisi will not restore diplomatic relations with Russia while Moscow has embassies in Tskhinvali and Sokhumi, said Georgia’s new Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze, who took office on Friday.
“Russia is occupying 20% of Georgia’s territories; Russia is an occupying country; it has two embassies – one in Tskhinvali and another one in Sokhumi and as long as it remains so, diplomatic relations with Russia will not be restored,” Panjikidze said, adding that “de-occupation” will remain Georgia’s top priority.
Georgia and Russia have no diplomatic relations since the August, 2008 war and they communicate mainly through Swiss diplomats.
At a news conference after meeting with his Swiss counterpart in Moscow on October 25, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, was asked how long the Swiss mediation would be required between Moscow and Tbilisi. Lavrov responded that he was not the right person for that question.
“We did not cut diplomatic relations with Georgia. Saakashvili did,” Lavrov said.
Also on October 26, new foreign minister Maia Panjikidze, who was in Georgia’s diplomatic service before 2010, named three of her deputies. One of them will be Nikoloz Vashakidze, who held the first deputy foreign minister’s post under the previous leadership of the ministry.
Panjikidze named Davit Zalkaliani as new first deputy foreign minister. Zalkaniani, a career diplomat, served in number of diplomatic postings before joining Irakli Alasania’s Our Georgia-Free Democrats party three years ago. After the parliamentary elections he was in Georgian Dream’s transition team, who also participated in EU-Georgia talks in Brussels last week. Panjikidze said that her third deputy would be Guga Khelaia, a newcomer in the foreign ministry; she said that Khelaia would be in charge of financial issues within the ministry. Panjikidze has yet to name who will take two remaining posts of deputies.
Sergi Kapanadze, who was one of the deputy foreign ministers in the previous administration, thanked MFA’s new leadership for offering him to continue working with them; in a Facebook post he said he would pursue academic career at the Tbilisi State University and launch a think-tank group.
Ex-foreign minister, Grigol Vashadze, said after the meeting with the new minister that he was “very glad that priorities remain the same – the European Union, NATO, good relations with the neighbors.”