Georgia’s Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said at a security conference in Munich that “occupation” of Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia was “a serious threat to national security of Georgia and a challenge to the European security.”
“So called frozen conflicts and attempts to restore spheres of influence are huge challenge to our region,” she said in prepared remarks, which she read out in German during a breakout session on security and stability in south-eastern Europe and Caucasus on February 2. “We should not underestimate these risks, otherwise we will threaten security in the South Caucasus and we must not make this mistake.”
At the same time she stressed that there was “no alternative to dialogue” with Russia and noted about direct talks that were launched between Georgian PM’s special representative for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin in December.
Panjikidze, however, also stressed that this direct communication with Russia “cannot replace” the Geneva talks, which were launched after the August, 2008 war.
“We are not expecting an immediate breakthrough,” Panjikidze said. “It is certain that there will not be a complete reconciliation with Russia or restoration of diplomatic relations with Russia [which were cut after the 2008 war] as long as parts of Georgia are occupied.”
“However, easing tensions and creating working relations by gradual, pragmatic approach is an achievable objective,” she added.
Meanwhile on Sunday, a delegation from the Georgian Agriculture Ministry left for Moscow to hold talks with the Russian state consumer protection agency, RosPotrebNadzor, on lifting ban on import of Georgian products to Russia.
In her remarks at the Munich security conference on February 2 the Georgian Foreign Minister reiterated that NATO integration was Georgia’s foreign policy priority. She also reiterated Georgia’s commitment to Afghan operation, including beyond 2014.
“We believe that now it is time to make next step forward to integrate Georgia into NATO,” Panjikidze said.
Earlier on February 2, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told the Munich security conference that “Georgia and the states of the Balkans have unfulfilled aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration.”
“The pace of these integration efforts will be determined by the aspirants themselves. But we too share a responsibility for helping them achieve their rightful place in Europe and the Transatlantic Alliance,” Biden said.
In the same speech the U.S. Vice President reiterated that Russia’s recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions as independent states was among the differences between Washington and Moscow.
“The United States will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. We will not recognize any nation having a sphere of influence. It will remain America’s view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances. All that remains the U.S. position; it will not change,” Biden said.