Georgia to restore ties with Russia (06.11.12)
Tbilisi needs relations with Russia no less than with the West, particularly in view of the latter’s stance during the August 2008 hostilities
The new Prime Minister of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili established a new position for relations with Russia. Zurab Abashidze, well-known diplomat and former Georgian ambassador to Russia was appointed special envoy of the Georgian PM on Russian affairs. Paata Zakareishvili, Georgian Minister for Reintegration told this news during a press conference organized on Public Dialogues website.
“Georgia and Russia, Georgian and Abkhaz, and Georgian and Ossetian sides can’t but have issues that can be settled through joint efforts. Still, we always concentrate on problems we can’t tackle today, and keep knocking our heads against this wall,” Zakareishvili said.
According to Zakareishvili, lack of a dialogue between Georgia and Russia harms not only Georgia but also Russia which has its own interests in Georgia. In addition, the minister believes that the new political force coming to power in Georgia gives Russia a chance to normalize the ties with its southern neighbour.
“I think the new Georgian authorities are a chance for Russia to normalize its relations with Georgia. Much depends now on Russia’s further moves. Russia declared it would not speak to Saakashvili; now, with Saakashvili no longer at the power, how will Russia speak to Georgia, I wonder?” Zakareishvili said.
For his part, the Georgian PM Ivanishvili said restoration of diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation is closely linked with the issue of Georgia’s territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders of the country. “The fact of recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent republics by Russia is the main reason hampering the restoration of diplomatic relations between Georgia and Russia, given the existence of Russian embassies in Sukhumi and Tskhinvali. After trade and cultural relations between the two countries are resumed, a lot of work needs to be done to provide conditions for diplomatic relations and further move of these ties to friendly ones, taking into account the great history between Georgia and Russia,” Ivanishvili stressed.
Statements of this kind were expected to be voiced sooner or later; whatever they may say, Tbilisi needs relations with Russia no less than with the West, particularly in view of the latter’s stance during the August 2008 hostilities. Only one like Saakashvili could turn a blind eye on the increasingly deteriorating attitude of the West to Georgia and himself. Anyway, the Georgian Dream has won the elections and started to amend, to some extent, Saakashvili’s foreign policy doctrine, if one existed at all. Appointment of Zurab Abashidze as PM’s personal envoy on Russian affairs did not come all of a sudden.
However, the key problem lies not in Georgia, but rather in Russia - whether Moscow would like to talk to Tbilisi and recall its signature from the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s independence? Most likely, it would not; this is a too suitable springboard for building up Russian military presence in Caucasus, and abandoning it to favour Tbilisi would mean to finally give up the Russian presence in Caucasus.
Well, the Russian authorities refused to communicate with Mikheil Saakashvili; Ivanishvili may appear to be luckier in this regard. However, to much discontent on Tbilisi’s part, Moscow will be the one to dictate the conditions for “reconciliation”. However hard Saakashvili had tried, he failed to make his country a serious regional player. Ivanishvili may try as well, but he too may fail. Vowing to “pursue a course on integration with European structures” and continuing the course while trying to reconcile with Moscow are quite different things.