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Vashadze: Georgian-Russian negotiations inevitable

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, October 27
Starting negotiations will “take place by all means”, however it is hard to predict when it will happen, Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze said on October 25. He was speaking to the Russian Daily Newspaper Vremya Novostei. The West is interested in solving the issue of Georgia in accordance with the rules and principles of international law, the Minister noted.

“Everyone understands that the actions of Russia in Georgia are hindering cooperation in a number of international directions. It is not only about the relations of Tbilisi and Moscow,” Vashadze said in his interview, adding that the presence of Russian troops in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia hinders advancement in the areas of disarmament and building trust.

Vashadze claimed that in the situation where Russia has “appropriated” the Abkhazian part of the Georgian railway, there is no longer normal transport communication. The Minister said the civil aviation sector also has problems as it is unable to use the transport corridors properly. “The West is raising these issues actively on bilateral and multilateral levels,” he noted.

In answer to a question by a Russian journalist whether it is time to start “direct negotiations” between Russia and Georgia, Vashadze quoted the President of Georgia: “We are ready to start negotiations with Moscow without any preconditions anytime anywhere.” “In return we are waiting for the readiness [of Moscow] to constructively resolve the problems,” the Foreign Minister of Georgia added.

Georgia will not be discussing trade and economic issues during the negotiations with Russia, Vashadze pointed out. “The talks will be on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia, the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity and on the voluntary, secure and dignified return of the IDPs to their homes,” the Minister stated. “Only on this basis can our relations with Russia be regulated. We understand of course that we should consider the interests of Russia as well during the talks,” he added.

This is not the first time that Georgian officials have declared Tbilisi’s readiness to talk with Russia. Commenting on Tbilisi’s repeated statements about being ready to talk with Moscow, some Georgian analysts suggest that while the authorities in Moscow remain “firm” about their position, the statements of the Georgian leadership will bring “no results.” “Both Tbilisi and Moscow have their own positions about certain issues and it seems that the Georgian side is merely trying to show the international community that Tbilisi is ready for talks, while Russia is not,” analyst Soso Tsintsadze told The Messenger.

Speaking to the Russian journalist, the Georgian Foreign Minister touched upon the issue of Georgia’s NATO aspirations, saying that Georgia will “by all means have its place” in NATO’s new strategy. “We know that in Lisbon [at NATO Summit] the decision made at Bucharest Summit, that Georgia will eventually join NATO, will be reaffirmed,” he noted.

In the interview to Vremya Novostei, Vashadze explained the reasons behind Tbilisi’s decision to launch a visa-free regime with the North Caucasus republics, which sparked irritation of the Kremlin, saying that it was a “well thought” decision. “It does not involve any hidden threat,” the Minister noted “as for the reasons for the decision, we can say that there are about 25 thousand Georgians in North Ossetia who have relatives in Georgia and on the Georgian territory there are 100 thousand Georgian citizens of Ossetian origin, who have relatives there [in North Ossetia]. Why should be people be parted?” he said. Vashadze cited “huge” interest of the North Caucasus residents in studying in Georgian Universities as another reason for launching the visa-free regime.