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Intl. Community May Help Mend Russia-Georgia Ties (20.11.12)

Georgia might seek international community’s assistance in improving ties with Russia, the country’s recently appointed foreign minister said in an interview published on Wednesday.

“We do not rule out that international community might be involved in efforts to step up contacts with Russia. The role of a mediator is always very important when ties are strained,” Maya Pandzhikidze said in an interview with Russia’s Kommersant daily.

Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said earlier this month that Tbilisi is restarting its ties with Moscow “from a clean slate” but the restoration of diplomatic relations will be linked to the issue of the country’s territorial integrity. Moscow, however, ruled out any negotiations on the status of former Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia recognized as independent states.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after Georgia’s October 1 election, won by the Georgian Dream opposition coalition, that Moscow expects the new government to make “practical steps” to build neighborly relations with Russia.

“Practical steps, so often mentioned by Moscow, are an issue to be discussed during further consultations. Our message is specific, and we hope to get the response, which is more specific than what we currently hear,” Pandzhikidze said.

Among Georgia’s practical steps Pandzhikidze mentioned Russia’s accession to the WTO, comfortable conditions for Russian businesses in Georgia and the unilateral cancellation of visas for Russians.

“A lot of things can be done even after diplomatic ties have been severed,” she said.

Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia after their August 2008 war over the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia lost one-fifth of its territory after the two republics broke away.