MOSCOW, March 3 (Itar-Tass) — Russia would like to conduct a dialogue with Georgia in a constructive way, guided above all by the interests of the peoples of the two countries. However, not everything depends, regrettably, on Russia in this question.
This is precisely how Moscow’s proposals to Tbilisi (made public on Friday) can be described on restoring diplomatic relations and readiness to introduce on a mutual basis a visa-free regime for Georgian citizens, but with security guarantees for Russians, visiting Georgia.
“We have been interested in consolidating relations between Russian and Georgian peoples. We are ready to introduce on a mutual basis a visa-free regime for Georgian citizens. It is necessary for this purpose that the Georgian side should ensure appropriate legal conditions, guaranteeing security of Russians visiting Georgia,” emphasized spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Lukashevich.
On February 29, Tbilisi unilaterally cancelled the entry visa regime to the republic for Russian citizens. President Mikhail Saakashvili said the following on the eve of signing an appropriate decree: “Let every Russian citizen know that he or she can come to Georgia without visas in order to do business, to have rest at our resorts, to visit their kith and kin, etc.”
The visa regime was imposed between Georgia and Russia in 2000 on a decision of the Russian government. Then Georgia retaliated, imposing a visa regime for Russian citizens.
Commenting on the Georgian initiative (cancellation of visas for Russian citizens), Lukashevich said that “It is necessary to note the following”. “Heartily” inviting Russians to Georgia and promising “to arrange the most convenient regime for them”, Saakashvili knows of course that definite laws, imposed by the Georgian head of state, are in operation in the republic.
According to these laws, a considerable part of Russian citizens will be automatically persecuted criminally at the entrance to the republic, the spokesman underlined. These laws cover all who visited Abkhazia and South Ossetia even once over the past years.
The head of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Slutsky said the State Duma hails a chance to restore diplomatic relations with Georgia, but calls on Tbilisi to drop laws on “occupied territories”.”Indeed, on repealing unilaterally visas, Georgian president forgot somehow his own laws, punishing for visits to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“We have run into these anti-democratic laws even in the framework of cooperation with the PACE when our former colleague Sergei Markov, enjoying at the time parliamentary immunity, was barred from a meeting of the juridical commission in Tbilisi.
Tbilisi’s response to initiatives, aired by the spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, was quick and quite predictable. Georgia “regards as impossible” restoration of diplomatic relations with Russia until Moscow continues to recognize independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, said Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kapandadze.