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Special Representative to Russia appointed

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, November 2
On November 1st Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili appointed Zurab Abashidze as Special Envoy for Relations with Russia. The post has just been created and Abashidze will only answer to the Prime Minister. Abashidze served as Georgia’s Ambassador to Russia several years ago.

Ivanishvili has stated that creating normal, peaceful relations with Georgia's largest neighbor is essential. However, he has stressed that improving the current negative relations between Georgia and Russia will be difficult.

“We have already made a first step in changing relations with Russia and now we are waiting for the Russian response. I think that the response will be positive as normal relations are in the interests of both sides.” Ivanishvili stated.

The Prime Minister emphasized that normalizing relations should start with the restoration of cultural and trade relations. According to Ivanishvili achieving success in those fields will be easier.

“Of course the restoration of diplomatic relations is significant. However that [the restoration of diplomatic relations], unlike those spheres already mentioned, requires more time and is directly related to the issue of territorial integrity.” Ivanishvili stated.

Ivanishvili emphasized that reopening the Russian market to Georgian goods and the normalization of relations with Russia will not disrupt Georgia’s NATO and European path.

“Achieving the two goals together will be difficult. However we can have normal diplomatic relations with Russia and move towards NATO and European structures at the same time.” Ivanishvili suggested.

Zurab Abashidze stated that establishing the post indicates the Prime Minister’s great desire to improve relations with Russia.

“Our aim should be discussing the hardest problems, listing them, creating trust and good relations. We will work to create sincere diplomatic relations which will be oriented towards solving problems and challenges.” Abashidze said.

It is still undecided when Abashidze will go to Russia and whom he will hold meetings with as the government is waiting for the Russian reaction.

Opposition MP Davit Darchiashvili told The Messenger that the new post will provide nothing and relations with Russia will only improve if Georgia recognizes the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, something that almost everyone in Georgia is opposed to.

The opposition claims that Russia is not interested in improving relations with Georgia. According to them Russia will use the same rhetoric with the new government as it did with the previous one.

Political analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili told The Messenger that the Prime Minister has made a very clear positive step and if there is even a very small wish from the Russian side to improve relations with Georgia the Kremlin will react positively.

“There is no better candidate for the post than Abashidze.” Tsiskarishvili said. According to him economic relations with Russia might be solved in a year's time.

“In case if trade and economic relations are restored improving diplomatic relations will be easier, as the issue of the occupied territories is the focus of the international community.” Tsiskarishvili stated. He added that currently Russia is in the stage of “observation and surprise" towards the new Georgian government.

Georgia and Russia have had no diplomatic relations since the August 2008 war and the two countries communicate primarily through Swiss diplomats. Foreign Minister of Georgia, Maia Panjikidze stated several days ago that Georgia will only restore diplomatic relations with Russia when Russian embassies in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are removed.