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MOSCOW, November 23 (Itar-Tass) — Despite the intentions voiced by new Georgian leader Bidzina Ivanishvili to improve the relations with Russia, Tbilisi has taken few concrete steps for the purpose, and the statements by the Georgian prime minister sound contradictory sometimes. Meanwhile, according to the experts, some important steps towards Moscow cannot be expected from the new Georgian government, as several disagreements remain unsettled between Russia and Georgia, and they cannot be settled in the near future. But the policy of the new Georgian leadership will probably be more cautious after all than that under Mikhail Saakashvili.
On Thursday, Bidzina Ivanishvili told a first press conference at the post of the prime minister that he does not intend to visit Russia, until Moscow recognizes Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries. “My visit in Russia will not take place for a simple reason – until Russia has the embassies in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But some steps can be taken so that a meeting (with the Russian leadership) will take place, say, in Europe, somewhere outside Russia, though this is not discussed, even at the level of my special representative for Russian-Georgian relations,” Ivanishvili stated.
“The relations with Russia will not be and cannot be the same as those under the previous authorities,” the Georgian premier said. “Despite the fact that Russia’s response to our first step – the appointment of the special representative of the prime minister for the settlement of the relations with Russia – was not adequate and a reciprocal step did not follow, I pin high hopes that with our coming to power the relations will change and a thaw in the relations will begin,” he said.
Ivanishvili appointed diplomat Zurab Abashidze on this post on November 1. Abashidze stated that the task of the Georgian government “is to establish predicted, pragmatic, good neighbourly and future-oriented relations with Russia.”
“There are already some positive changes in the trading relations between Georgia and Russia, the process of the Georgian products returning on the Russian market began,” Ivanishvili noted. “It seems to me that the previous Georgian authorities just did not want to do it,” the premier stated.
Although, leader of the Democratic Movement – United Georgia organization Nino Burdzhanadze believes that the process to settle bilateral relations will be no easy, she is sooner optimistic about it. “I know that Russia is ready to cooperate with the Georgian state, and I am convinced that a political chance for this exists,” she told the Novye Izvestia daily. “I am very glad that Mr. Ivanishvili notes his intention to improve the relations with Russia. This is certainly a no easy process. We will develop a targeted plan for the settlement of Russian-Georgian relations. More intensive relations will be established at all levels, and certainly, the heads of the two countries will probably meet,” she stated.
The Georgian incumbent authorities will rather put a stake on the development of trade and economic relations with Moscow, the REGNUM news agency cited head of the Caucasus Institute of Peace, Democracy and Development Gia Nodia. “As for foreign policy Bidzina Ivanishvili’s position differs slightly from that of Mikhail Saakashvili: Tbilisi will not have a Russian embassy, until it (the Russian Embassy – Itar-Tass) works in Sukhum and Tskhinval,” he noted, recalling that nothing had essentially been done in this issue, except for the appointment of Zurab Abashidze.
Expert of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies Yana Amelina, who is cited by the news agency New Region, also did not agree with those, who believe that Ivanishvili’s government can change drastically the Georgian policy towards Russia. On the contrary, even a new composition of the country’s government points to the fact that the Georgian leadership continues Saakashvili’s policy.
“Ivanishvili’s team is mostly the ‘second edition’ of Saakashvili’s team not only in terms of ideology, but even purely in concrete state officials. When we take a look at concrete state officials, who occupy the top state posts in Georgia, we will see that this is a quite close circle of Saakashvili’s team during his first presidential term. They are his associates in 2003-2004. Just for what will they change their positions?” Amelina contemplates.
Russia and Georgia have several unsolved disagreements, which cannot be settled in the near future, she said with confidence. “Georgia continues to call South Ossetia and Abkhazia as the occupied territories of the country. The Russian Federation recognized their sovereignty, and this decision cannot be changed for obvious reasons,” she said.
Meanwhile, the expert admits that the policy of the new Georgian leadership will be more cautious and flexible, because Saakashvili’s recent steps “got beyond any possible decency.”
Amelina is also convinced that the improvement of the relations with Georgia is absolutely out of question without the repentance for the tragic events in 2008 and with real efforts to this effect.
“This is not only my opinion, this is an opinion of all Russian ‘hawks’,” Amelina said. “Georgia unleashed an aggressive war, killed Russian peacekeepers, who were protected by international laws, assassinated a good deal of civilians, and then the country was seeking to make Russia responsible for this. This is the things that cannot be so easily forgotten. But we did not hear even formal apologies and even the talks for an opportunity of such apologies. Nothing can be discussed without this at all,” she underlined.