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Tbilisi calls Putin’s statements “cynical”

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, July 7
Georgia and South Ossetia should sort out their relations by themselves, without the interference of a third party, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said following the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Tbilisi on Monday. “Some people think that South Ossetia is occupied and some think it is liberated,” Putin said while visiting the Museum of WWII on Poklonnaya Gora in Moscow. He was accompanied by Georgia’s ex-Prime Minister and current leader of the opposition Movement for Fair Georgia Zurab Noghaideli and businessman of Georgian origin Mikheil Khubutia.

“There is a need to hold dialogue without the interference of a third country. We did not start this war and the responsibility lies upon the side that started it. They should be brave enough to find the way to the hearts of the people wounded by them,” Putin said, adding that Russia, as well as the rest of the international community, should only play the role of “a guarantor.”

Russia is not a participant of the “Georgian-South Ossetian conflict”, Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Russian Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, said. “However Georgia is trying to portray Russia as part of it. At the same time Georgia ignores the existence of the South Ossetian people as a real party in this process,” Kosachev noted.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry described Putin's statements as “cynical”. “Moscow is trying to evade responsibility. Putin’s statement is mere cynicism and does not require any additional comment,” Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia Giga Bokeria said. Georgia is ready to cooperate with Russia, but only if Russia “respects Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” the Deputy Minister said. “When Russia puts up with the idea that Georgia is an independent state, and when the de-occupation of Georgian territories follows, we [Russia and Georgia] will have much better relations,” Bokeria told journalists.

Georgian Parliament Speaker, Davit Bakradze also commented on the Russian PM’s statement, saying that the term “occupation” means that responsibilities should be accepted by the force which occupies. “This force is Russia, not Abkhazia or South Ossetia,” he said. “When Russia starts meeting its obligations and withdraws its troops from Georgian territory, we will be ready to talk with the Abkhaz and Ossetian people. I think that there is no issue on which we could not find a common language,” Bakradze added. The process of dialogue with Abkhaz and Ossetians has already started, the Parliament Speaker noted. “We have already approved the State Strategy on the Occupied Territories, but it is necessary that everyone understands the responsibility of Russia, which is the force conducting the occupation,” Bakradze stated.

Georgian political analysts suggest that Clinton’s visit should be discussed in the context of her whole 5-day tour to South Caucasus countries, as well as Ukraine and Poland. “Her visits were generally aimed at Moscow,” analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze said. “Clinton highlighted the territorial conflicts by which Russia is trying to spread its influence over the countries in this region. When analysing these Clinton demonstrated a clear-cut position and at the same time noted that cooperation with Russia is necessary for the US,” he noted. The analyst added that the US administration is trying to be constructive, but not at the expense of its principles. “In the example of Georgia the US showed that a policy of compromise does not mean a policy of stepping back,” Sakvarelidze suggested.

Independent political analyst and Georgia’s former Ambassador to Russia Zurab Abashidze said that the US Secretary of State’s visits and statements have demonstrated that the United States has not “exchanged the Eastern European states, including Georgia, for its “reset policy” with Russia.” Washington’s position in terms of conflicts has become “clearer”, Abashidze noted. “During her visits to Kiev, Yerevan and Tbilisi Clinton reiterated that Georgia remains the main problem in relations between the US and Russia,” the analyst said.