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Russia’s Lavrov speaks about terrorism threats from Georgia’s Pankisi gorge

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, January 28
The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has stated that the radical Islamist group, the Islamic State (IS), is using Georgia’s Muslim populated eastern Pankisi Gorge as a training ground.

The Russian diplomat made the statement at a press conference in the Russian capital.

"The terrorist threat still exists in the Pankisi Gorge. It is reported that members of the Islamic State use the remote area for training, recuperation and gathering supplies,” he stressed.

According to him, the situation in the Gorge was one of the reasons why Russia tightened its visa regime with Georgia years ago.

At the same time, the Russian official said that his country supported “normal and neighbourly relations with Georgia.”

According to the Minister, Georgian-Russian relations are gradually warming.

“The people of Georgia should not pay for ex-President Saakashvili’s culpable mistakes," said Lavrov.

Lavrov also noted that diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia were not cut off by any initiative of Moscow.

He also spoke about the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war and accused ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili of "gross violations of international law".

According to him, "Russia did not have other choice but to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia”.

"This was a result of Saakashvili's criminal policy. He is famous for his provocations," said Lavrov.

The Russian Foreign Minister also said that Moscow was satisfied with the continuation of the Geneva discussions.

Lavrov also stressed that he was ready to meet with his Georgian counterpart.

He also reminded reporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin's statement, according to which he is ready to meet with the Georgian President.

"I am ready for contact with my Georgian counterpart. I am sure that other contacts are also possible. President Putin, when he was asked about it, did not rule out such a possibility," said Lavrov.

Responding to the statement, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikahsvili said “there was no terrorism risk” from Pankisi Gorge, as the Georgian Government has the situation “completely under control”.

“There are several people from Pankisi who are fighting in Syria and Iraq. We have strengthened the law in this regard and those people will face a prison sentence if they return to Georgia,” Kvirikahsvili said.

Parliamentary majority representatives stressed that if there were such risks, the international community would have voiced their concerns long before Russia.