TBILISI, October 4. /TASS/. Georgia is in favor of resuming direct flights with Russia, Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani told reporters on Friday, adding that Georgia would welcome such a decision from Moscow.
"I hope that such a decision (to resume flights - TASS) will be approved as soon as possible. Georgia is ready for this. We only welcome the resumption of this process. My stance is well-known: I have said the same during the meeting in New York (with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov - TASS), as the relations between people and the development of tourism facilitate de-escalation," Zalkaliani said.
On October 4, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that Moscow would resume flights to Georgia after Tbilisi ends its hostile policy against Russia. "[The flights resumption can be expected] when the situation is obvious that there is no more return to aggression," Peskov said. The Kremlin spokesman noted that Moscow saw the first positive signals, namely the recent meeting in New York between the Russian and Georgian foreign ministers, Sergey Lavrov and David Zalkaliani. However, he pointed that some politicians in Tbilisi "were up in arms" over this meeting.
On September 26, the Georgian top diplomat met with Lavrov on the sidelines of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in New York for the first time since 2008, when Tbilisi broke off diplomatic relations with Moscow after Russia had recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Since then, there have been no direct regular talks between Russia and Georgia, except the informal Prague Talks between Georgian Special Presidential Representative for Settlement of Relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin.
Ban on direct flights to Georgia
On June 20, 2019, several thousand protesters amassed near the national parliament in downtown Tbilisi, demanding the resignation of the interior minister and the parliament’s speaker, and tried to storm it. The protests were sparked by an uproar over the Russian delegation’s participation in the 26th session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO). On June 20, IAO President Sergei Gavrilov opened the session in the Georgian parliament. Opposition lawmakers were outraged by the fact that Gavrilov addressed the event’s participants from the parliament speaker’s seat. In protest, they did not allow the IAO session to continue. Shortly after the turmoil in Tbilisi, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili branded Russia an enemy and an occupier on her Facebook page, but later on said that nothing threatened Russian tourists in the country.
To ensure Russian citizens’ safety, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree, which imposed a temporary ban on passenger flights to Georgia from July 8. On June 22, Russia’s Transport Ministry announced that starting on July 8, flights by Georgian airlines to Russia are halted.