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Foreign Minister’s statement on Russia creates a stir

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, February 2
In an interview with Radio Liberty, Georgian Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili is quoted as saying that “Georgia and Russia suspended an informal dialogue on trade issues.” This comment has caused controversy in Georgia.

On January 29, RL published an article entitled “Georgian FM says South Ossetia Could be Annexed Like Crimea,” where Beruchashvili warned that Russia could annex the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia as it did with Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

"The next move is on South Ossetia; there are signals that the Crimea-like scenario could be repeated and South Ossetia could be annexed."

She said South Ossetia could hold a referendum as Crimea did in March that would be used to show that the local population wants to join Russia.

"That can be well organized, it's not a problem for Russia," she said.

Beruchashvili informed there are some 11,500 Russian soldiers in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

She said that Russia continues to make "destructive moves," including signing the treaty of Alliance and Partnership with Abkhazia.

As a result, Beruchashvili said, Georgia and Russia suspended an informal dialogue on trade issues. She said she was "not optimistic" that the dialogue would resume anytime soon.

Beruchashvili expressed doubt about trade with Russia. "We see this market as a trap; it’s a very unpredictable market."

“At any moment, Russia can re-enact its embargo again," she warned, referring to a 2006 ban on Georgian wines and mineral waters that Moscow lifted in 2013.

Following the interview, the Foreign Ministry and Beruchashvili claim that a journalist had misinterpreted her words.

Beruchashvili stresses that her words did not concern trade relations with Russia and discussed a special format of meetings of Georgian and Russian envoys-Zurab Abashidze and Gregory Karasin.

“I stated that owing to Russia’s actions on Georgia’s occupied regions, the format was temporally suspended,” she said.

However, Zurab Abashidze stated that “both the Abashidze-Karasin format and the line of communication with Russia would be maintained.”

“We just have not agreed on a date of the next meeting with the Russians,” he said.

Former Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze stated that Beruchashvili’s statement confirmed problems in the government.

“It means that the country has no leadership… different officials make different statements. There is no common vision,” she said.