Despite of the August 2008 war, Georgian and Russian people keep “mutual sympathy” and the two countries should have “good” relations, Russia’s PM Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview with the Georgian television channel Rustavi 2.
In the interview, which was recorded last week and aired on August 6, Medvedev spoke of the war between the two countries five years ago and reiterated that Russia’s decision to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia was the only right step at the time.
“I’m the one who was taking this decision and I believe it was the only right decision in the concrete situation. Of course there is no condition whatsoever now to revise this decision. It would be a gross mistake,” said Medvedev, who was Russia’s President at the time of the August, 2008 war.
“As far as the future is concerned – I don’t know it, no one knows. Future depends on people – on those who live in your [country] and in those territories, which we recognize as subjects of international law,” he said while responding to a question if Russia would retract its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“Anything can develop in various scenarios, but it – in general any rapprochement, dialogue between peoples, should be based on the will of the people and not on military force. If there is a common desire to build normal life, cooperation, Russia will never hamper it,” he said.
Medvedev said that all the positive signals coming from Georgia’s current government in respect of relations with Russia, including decision to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, “are certainly heard” by Moscow.
Responding to a question about his brief chat with his Georgian counterpart Bidzina Ivanishvili on the sideline of the World Economic Forum Davos in January, Medvedev said: “We had a brief conversation – a normal, calm, friendly conversation.”
“He [Ivanishvili] left an impression of a pragmatic person… who of course wants prosperity of his country, who has his political orientations and priorities, but who also understands what a difficult legacy he had to inherit from predecessor politicians,” Medvedev said.
“Regardless of conflicts, what matters is that what makes our people linked has not been lost – that is mutual sympathy and desire to live in peace… We should have good and neighborly relations,”
Meanwhile, PM Ivanishvili said in an interview with the Voice of America that there “is a nostalgia sentiment in Russia for Georgia and there is a nostalgia sentiment also in Georgia for Russian people.”
“Relations will be restored, and we must do it,” Ivanishvili said. “I will invest all forces so that relations with our big neighbor will be restored. I think we will be successful.”
Asked about so called ‘borderisation’ across administrative boundary lines of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Medvedev told Rustavi 2 TV that this question should be directed to the authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia as such decisions were not taken in the Kremlin.
On the issue of return of refugees and internally displaced persons, Medvedev said it was “not Russia’s problem” and Georgia should seek solution of this issue through a direct dialogue with the authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
On Georgia’s NATO integration, Medvedev said “to put it mildly, we do not welcome” it.
“Not because we think that Georgia has no right – any country has the right to choose its affiliation to this or that military-political alliance,” Medvedev said, adding that Georgia’s NATO membership is simply not in Russia’s interests and “it is bad for Georgia too”.
When asked that it was the choice of the Georgian people, Medvedev responded: “It’s your choice, but I think one should think about it when casting a ballot.”
Asked if Russia would “try to obstruct” Georgia’s NATO integration, Medvedev responded: “Only NATO itself can deter it.”
He said that Russia had no say in NATO’s decision-making process. “I think the Georgian citizens have to think about it – how useful at all Georgia’s NATO accession is for Europe itself?.. They have not been eager yet,” Medvedev said.
Asked about Eurasian Union, an integration project pushed by Russia to link former Soviet states, Medvedev said that it “is a good way for integration of our economies.”
“Why can it be interesting for Georgia and for other countries? Because we are neighbors. We will never be neighbors to the United States,” Medvedev said. “We can be partners and we should be partners, but we won’t be neighbors. The highest level of economic integration is achievable when people live in neighborhood,” Medvedev said.