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Georgia’s PM: Russia should honour our sovereignty

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Monday, January 25
“Russia needs to honour the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia so that the region can be attractive to investors and businesses,” the country's Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, told CNBC on Friday.

Tensions have remained high between the two countries following a short conflict in 2008. Hundreds died in clashes over the sovereignty of South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- two breakaway Georgian regions which Russia recognizes as independent countries.

Kvirikashvili said that several formats of dialogue now existed between the two countries, and that there were positive dynamics in terms of trade.

"We are trying to decrease tensions with Russia in order to allow ourselves to attract investments, because stability and security (are)... the main prerequisites for any investor," Kvirikashvili told CNBC's Hadley Gamble at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

There are still issues, however. Russia continues to sign agreements with both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Kvirikashvili said, something he described as being "against all logic."

"But this is where we are," he said. "We will continue a pragmatic approach, we will continue from our side to decrease tensions, and we welcome, of course, the recent decision of the Russian government to ease visa regulations for Georgian citizens," he added.

"This was a positive step, and it is appreciated by (the) Georgian government and people."

Asked if he had a message for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Kvirikashvili said that, "Russia should honour Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty."

"This is the main entry condition to be met by the Russian side in order to start normal relations with Russia," he said.

"Honestly, we don't see enough political will today in the Russian leadership to resolve this crisis, but despite all that, we have longstanding tradition of… relations with Russia, and I don't think that we need to scratch out everything," Kvirikashvili added.

"Culturally, Georgians, we are Europeans, we are a European country," Kvirikashvili also said during the interview.

On Friday, the Georgian government announced that Kvirikashvili had met with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg while attending a World Economic Forum in Davos. The two parties discussed issues relating to Georgia becoming a NATO member, according to the Prime Minister's press office.

The former foreign minister, Kvirikashvili assumed his role as Georgia's Prime Minister at the end of last year, after the sudden resignation of IrakliGaribashvili.