The messenger logo

Versions of the visit

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, December 16
Georgian Patriarch Ilia II went to Moscow to attend the funeral of the Patriarch of all Russia Alexey II. However, his visit became more significant when he also spoke to President Medvedev. The details of their conversation are unknown, and therefore it has given rise to different and sometimes controversial reports and very Georgian rumours.

Ilia II called the meeting historic. The most important issue the Georgian Patriarch touched upon was the territorial integrity of the country. “Georgia will be united, Abkhazia and Tskhinvali its integrated parts,” stated the Patriarch at a meeting with the Georgian Diaspora in Moscow. He came back full of optimism. “The Russian President is for the return of IDPs and this is an encouraging sign,” said the Patriarch. He added that opening the borders and restoring diplomatic missions were also discussed. “There was consent on all these issues. I think our leadership should use this visit to further improve relations and continue in the same direction, which will hopefully bring good results,” said the Patriarch.

On his return to Tbilisi the Patriarch was visited by Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigol Vashadze, who said: “the Patriarch had interesting meetings, among them that with the Russian President. This means that dialogue between Russia and Georgia has been renewed.” Vashdaze added that dialogue will resume at Government level, but neither Georgia as a state nor the Georgian Church will accept the occupation of Abkhazia and Samachablo (Tskhinvali region).

The Georgian President also commented on the Patriarch’s visit to Moscow during his meeting with entrepreneurs. He said that before the Patriarch’s departure they had met and agreed what message he was to convey to the Russian President. “I’m grateful that he conveyed all our thoughts, word for word, to the country which carried out the occupation of a significant part of our territory and continues doing so,” stated Saakashvili. From these words it can be assumed that indirectly Moscow presumed the dialogue was with Saakashvili, although neither the opposition nor media agree with this interpretation. Indeed the media currently disseminates so far unconfirmed reports, rumours in other words, that the Patriarch brought back from Russia a settlement option absolutely unacceptable for the current administration.

Alia informs that Medvedev suggested to the Patriarch that Georgia becomes a confederation, including the occupied territories, a move which could be initiated by the Russian Church and would not be opposed by the Russian state, provided Saakashvili is replaced as President. Obviously this is unacceptable for Georgia’s leadership, but the opposition is trying to use this argument against the authorities. Republican Irakli Batiashvili excludes the possibility of their being any Georgian-Russian relationship under Saakashvili. He claims that the Foreign Ministry statement of a possible resumption of dialogue is not true. “The Kremlin position is clear-cut, it does not intend to negotiate with the Saakashvili administration,” stated Batiashvili. The only solution, according to him, is the resignation of the President and the rest of the current leadership.

The events in Perevi should also be considered in this context. It is assumed that the vacating of the village by Russian forces was a result of the Patriarch’s visit to Moscow. But the comments of Georgia’s administration that it was the result of pressure from the international community persuaded the Russians to return and occupy the village again, showing that they ignore and don’t care for the international community. While Russia may respect the Georgian Church and its leaders, it has no respect for the Georgian state and those who support it.

In one way or another the Russian leadership is conducting new aggressive steps against Georgia. It also uses religion at its own convenience, by having much better relations with the Patriarch than the elected President. All this creates extra problems for the Saakashvili administration, whose credibility is thus greatly weakened, regardless of the rights and wrongs of its policies.