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Russian-Georgian relations improve, but slowly

November 25, 2013, 16:42 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Alexander Kazakov

MOSCOW, November 25. /ITAR-TASS/. Muscovites Irina and Tatiana like very many female friends had a habit to go to the restaurants from time to time. They go to Georgian restaurants most frequently. This is so, because despite a long period of strongly cooled relations between Russia and Georgia that the countries experienced during Mikhail Saakashvili’s presidency ordinary Russians did not cease to like the Georgian cuisine as well as Georgian people.

This time the cuisine was delicious at a Georgian restaurant in the Moscow district of Taganka, but the female friends were particularly pleased that Georgian wine was on the menu. This wine was not much better or much cheaper that French or Italian wine, to which wealthy Muscovites already got accustomed to, as long as Georgian and Moldovan wines were banned, but this wine raised recollections about the young years in the Soviet times. “The wine is out on the house immediately as all people missed it so much...” a waiter said.

In the Soviet times a small republic of Georgia gladdened people from other Soviet republics. Wines, cognacs, tangerines, a famous mineral water Borjomi... After the breakup of the Soviet Union the relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have been deteriorating from year to year that resulted not only in severed diplomatic relations, but also the embargo on the supplies of traditional Georgian products in Russia. All of them are getting back to Russia gradually. The other day Georgia resumed the supplies of citruses, mainly tangerines in Russia after an interval of seven years. The supplies of Georgian alcoholic drinks and Borjomi were resumed six months ago.

Russia takes all this as the indicators of thaw in the relations between the two countries, though the restoration of diplomatic relations is not in question. The bilateral relations began improving after the victory of the Georgian Dream coalition at the parliamentary elections in the country in October 2012 and Bidzina Ivanishvili became the prime minister. He called for the soonest improvement of Russian-Georgian relations and the restoration of cultural and trade ties between the two countries.

After the recent presidential elections in Georgia a new president was elected and a new prime minister was appointed. But incumbent President Georgy Margvelashvili and Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili are named as the full underlings of the former prime minister in Georgia, so, no changes in the country’s foreign political course are expected from them. The stumbling block is that Moscow and Tbilisi have different positions over the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia recognized as independent countries and Georgia still considers as integral part of the country.

The contacts between the officials of the two countries became regular. So, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and special envoy of the Georgian prime minister for the relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze had one more meeting in the city of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, last Thursday, November 21.

After the meeting Karasin stated that the times of maniacal strife between the two countries went down into oblivion. “We have established constructive dialogue and have resolved many economic and social issues over the past year, for instance, the restoration of transport communication lines, the comeback of Georgian products on the Russian market, and we have an intention to broaden our cooperation in the future,” he said.

Abashidze noted that the Georgian leadership seeks to build up new relations with Russia that do not envisage the lack of constructive approach and are aimed at positive results. “I assured Russia that the Georgian president and the prime minister intend to improve the relations and put them back on the normal track through the establishment of cooperation in economy and the settlement of the social problems as well as humanitarian projects,” he noted.

“Georgian-Russian relations are finally shifting on the track of rationality and will continue to develop,” Georgian political expert, executive director of the non-government organization “Caucasian House” Giorgi Kanashvili said in an interview with the Expert Online edition. “Some steps can be expected in economic and humanitarian spheres, particularly in facilitating the visa rules,” he said.

However, in the view of the expert, no crucial changes are expected, because the countries do not have diplomatic relations yet, and no one speaks about them even in the future. “Two more years are needed so that we will get down to the settlement of the issues, which are ‘the red lines’ for the countries,” the political expert stated.

In his view, Georgia has revised the country’s philosophy towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia and does not intend to resolve the issue to bring back these territories in drastic ways.

The results of the presidential elections in Georgia point to the fact that the society supported the policy for changes that Ivanishvili pursued, head of the analytical bureau Alte et Certe Andrei Yepifantsev said. Nino Burdzhanadze’s party Democratic Movement came out with the pro-Russian position. “The third place of the party (ten percent of votes in the presidential elections) means that considerable forces that see Georgia’s future in the cooperation with Russia remained in the Georgian society. It is very important, it was impossible to think about it five years ago,” the e-edition quoted Yepifantsev as saying.

“The time of sobering has come for many people and now the Georgians see their future together with Russia. This does not mean that they will forget about South Ossetia, this does not mean that they will join the Customs Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan - Itar-Tass eds), this means that they want to be closer, more friendly to Russia,” the expert believes.

Meanwhile, most Russian citizens believe that the relations between Russia and Georgia can improve. A sociological survey conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Centre (VCIOM) showed that 56 percent of Russians believe in the improvement of the relations between the two countries, as they replied to the question how they see the fate of bilateral relations after the victory of Georgy Margvelashvili at the presidential elections.

Only seven percent of respondents expect worse relations between Russia and Georgia.

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