Regaining breakaway regions, joining NATO and being “friends” with Russia are all “manageable” tasks for Georgia, PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said on May 14.
Asked during his monthly press conference how he was going to on the one hand improve relations with Russia and on the other hand pursue Georgia’s NATO integration path, Ivanishvili responded: “I will repeat persistently, that we will do both; we will achieve both.”
He said that there were “many such precedents” in Europe and “there is no need to look aggressively” at Russia’s opposition to Georgia’s NATO integration.
“Russia had a similar [negative] stance towards many European states [and their NATO integration] – Poland, the Baltic states, Slovakia,” Ivanishvili said and also added that Georgia’s case “is more tense” and different from those cases but achieving both goals “is not unimaginable.”
“Of course it is desirable if there is a rapprochement between NATO and Russia – that would have resolved our problem; but Russia has such a position and it had the similar position in respect of other states; but others managed to do it and why can’t we? We failed to do it because I think the previous government did grave mistakes; it [the previous government] was irritating Russia with NATO,” Ivanishvili said.
He also said that Georgia “would have been NATO member and would have had good relations with Russia if not those mistakes” of the previous government.
Asked if he had some “compromise” solution to offer to Russia, Ivanishvili responded: “I do not see anything where we can make concessions; we have nothing left.”
“We should return territories, which belonged to us, we should also join NATO and also be friends with Russia – these are all manageable,” Ivanishvili said.
“The Russian authorities are probably realizing and will realize that these separatist territories are not useful for them either and neither our NATO accession will collapse Russia; we will gradually realize all these and manage to do that; but it will require time,” he said.
Ivanishvili also reiterated that his government “has an ambition” to get NATO Membership Action Plan at the Alliance’s next summit in 2014.
Ivanishvili, however, also said that he did not want to speak much about it and cause exaggerated expectations in order not to harm the process.
“I prefer to do deeds rather than to make promises in advance; but we have such an ambition [about MAP] and I think this is a very objective ambition and I think we will manage to do that,” he said.
Giga Bokeria, President Saakashvili’s national security adviser and Secretary of National Security Council, said late last month that the notion that Georgia would ease its NATO integration after improving ties with Russia was wrong and the government should first focus on NATO integration. he said that focusing on this latter and joining NATO at first would then also help Georgia “to, as the government puts it, mend ties with Russia.”
Asked during the May 14 press conference whether he would attend 2014 Sochi Olympic Games if invited by President Putin, Ivanishvili responded: “I do not know; I don’t have an answer.”
“I have not yet received an invitation and I do not even know whether I will get one at all or not. Let’s see how our relations will develop and whether I will have an opportunity and time [for this visit],” Ivanishvili said.
“I do not rule out anything; I may go, but today I have no reason to give you a concrete answer,” he said and added that there still was enough time before the Sochi Olympics in February, 2014.
“Lot of things may happen in this period. If our relations develop very positively... I may go,” he added.
Georgian National Olympic Committee endorsed unanimously on May 2 to take part in the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
During the same press conference he was asked when he was going to visit the United States. Ivanishvili responded that making foreign trips was not his focus, as there “is lots of work to be done here” within the country. “Foreign visits are not decisive [factor],” he said.
He said that he had invitations from Poland, Romania, the Baltic states, but he was not in a hurry to make these visits. He said that he was going to visit France, “but changed my mind.”
“There is no problem with my foreign visits,” he said.
“I think that focus was wrongly made by the previous authorities on foreign [audience]; they were mainly accountable abroad before Europeans and Americans, ignoring the Georgian society; I do not think that’s how it should be. I think that we should sort out things mainly internally,” Ivanishvili said and also added that he would probably visit Berlin after Germany’s September elections.
On U.S. trip, he said that he had no problems with visiting Washington either. “I think it would be better if this visit takes place later in order to demonstrate ourselves to our strategic partner in maximally best way,” Ivanishvili said without elaborating.