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Relations with Georgia are above politics - Lavrov

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, February 26
Mikheil Saakashvili, the President of Georgia, is trying to sever the link between the Russian and Georgian peoples, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the Russian media on February 25. “Saakashvili has been making serious attempts to sever relations between the two nations. The Russian Federation will not cooperate with Mikheil Saakashvili, but we won’t avoid contacting the Georgian people,” Lavrov told the media.

“The existing situation has been caused by the current Georgian regime. Saakashvili aims to achieve the final severance of any relations between the two countries. The Russian Federation has never ceased to cooperate with Georgia by means of public figures, the intelligentsia and the Church. We have no doubts that lasting relations with Georgia will remain above all the political butterflies blown by the wind,” Lavrov said.

“The Georgian side asked us to resume charter flights during the Christmas period. We felt that this was the right decision and are still ready to resume regular flights. It’s up to the relevant institutions of the two countries to discuss the issue,” Lavrov said. “The Upper Larsi Border Checkpoint, closed in July 2006, has been also properly equipped and I hope it will be opened from March 1, 2010. The Russian side is ready to follow all the treaties signed by relevant institutions on this particular issue,” he added.

Lavrov's statement about being ready to resume regular flights with Georgia is another PR ploy, as similar statements by Dmitry Medvedev, the President of Russia, and other official bodies haven’t been followed by any particular results, Giorgi Bokuchava, the Head of the Georgian Transport Administration, has told the media in response, stressing that it was not Georgia but Russia which unilaterally cancelled flights with Georgia. “We haven’t cancelled any flights and we have no problems with Russia wanting to resume them. There have been no particular changes in any of the mutual treaties signed before the August War in 2008 or after it,” Bokuchava said, adding that if Russia really wants to resume conducting regular flights it should send the Georgian side an official note to this effect through the Swiss Embassy.

The Georgian Parliament's Sectoral Economy and Economic Policy Committee has also hosted Alexander Nalbanov, Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister, to discuss Russia making civil flights to Abkhazia. The members of Committee discussed how these could be prevented, as they are illegal and violations of all international agreements. The Deputies and the Minister agreed that the Georgian side should officially address the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and ask it to terminate Russia's right to vote in the organisation and impose sanctions against Russian companies which conduct illegal flights to Abkhazian territory.

“In the current situation in our country the resumption of these civil flights is absolutely illegal as it violates all the principles of the relevant convention. Furthermore this step endangers those air companies who are carrying out, or at least intending to carry out, such flights in the near future,” said Nalbanov. The Committee further plans to send a protest about this to the international community.

Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze has told The Messenger that Lavrov's statement about contacts with Georgia must have been designed as a step towards starting negotiations with the international community by somehow easing the difficult situation with Georgia. “I don’t often agree with the Government of Georgia, but I must stress that on the Abkhazian issue I do totally agree with their protest. The illegal flights should by all means be stopped to prevent the Russian militarisation of the region,” added Sakvarelidze.

Zurab Abashidze, another political analyst, approves of Russia’s wish to reestablish flights to and from Georgia, saying that this should be approved by the Georgian Government. “I always welcome such pragmatic steps from the Russian side. This issue should be discussed between the air companies and their representatives but it definitely needs to be approved by the Government bodies,” Abashidze told us, stressing that the resumption of flights between Russia and Abkhazia was an obvious violation of all international legislation.