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Saakashvili welcomes Russian business in Georgia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, February 27
Speaking on February 25 on the anniversary of Georgia’s Occupation by the Soviet Union Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili gave a long speech dedicated to Georgian-Russian relations.

“We do not open the door for Russian tanks, but our doors are always open for Russian investors and Russian tourists,” Saakashvili said, underlining that Georgia is ready to cooperate with Russian business, especially now that economic crisis has struck the world. “Now, when Russia’s economy has practically collapsed, we invite Russian businessmen to Georgia, so they can see with their own eyes that nobody will demand a bribe or share from them in this country,” Saakashvili said. He also warned however that in the “economic storm around Georgia” there was “a big ship in the north, which is sinking close to us, and we should be careful not to be dragged down with it,” Saakashvili said.

As an example of economic cooperation with Russia the President quoted the Russian-Georgian agreement on the united management of the biggest Georgian hydro power plant, Enguri. Saakashvili stated that this cooperation “brings prosperity and stability.” The agreement on the Enguri HPP has been subject to a strong wave of criticism from the opposition, which has accused the President of giving Russia access to Georgian strategic resources. “It’s unimaginable for Georgia to make any kind of deal with the country which is fighting a war against us, especially when the deal concerns such a strategic object as the Enguri power plant. This agreement was signed behind the people’s back and those who did it should be held accountable for that,” Manana Nachkebia of New Rights told The Messenger soon after news of the deal was announced.

On broader questions of Georgian-Russian relations, President Saakashvili said on February 26 that “We will not achieve any results through confrontation and war and our enemies should also understand that they will not achieve their goals through bloodshed and violence. I put the interests of our people and peace above myself and I expect the same from my Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev,” said Saakashvili, proposing peaceful dialogue with Moscow to resolve the problems between the two countries which have emerged since the August conflict in South Ossetia.

The Russian authorities have several times declined to start direct negotiations with the current Tbilisi authorities. Speaking in September 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called Saakashvili a “political corpse” and his Government a “bankrupt regime.” “We will be able, and want, to find political ways to settle problems with Russia, but only if Russia acts according to the principles of international law and respect for neighbouring states; if Russia understands its responsibility before the international community; if Russia meets its commitments and ditches its plan of splitting and occupying Georgia,” stated Saakashvili, still appealing to the Kremlin to start dialogue.

Saakashvili also touched on the question of the possible resumption of military actions in Georgia. Rumours about this are widespread in Georgia and even Saakashvili’s close allies, such as Givi Targamadze, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Security, have stated that Russia may “resume its aggression against Georgia in spring.” President Saakashvili said he doesn’t consider that a new war will happen in the near future. “There is a difficult economic situation in Russia today; Georgia’s aspiration towards peaceful and stable development, as well as the international support which our country has today, rule out any possibility of an escalation of aggression; they make unreal any supposition about the resumption of hostilities,” he said.