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Georgia seeks better relations with Russia without harming its own sovereignty

Georgian Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili said Tbilisi had embarked on a new course in relations with Moscow
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili  EPA/ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili

UNITED NATIONS, September 27. /ITAR-TASS/. Georgia is seeking to normalise relations with Russia but without doing any harm to its own sovereignty and independence, Georgian Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili said on Saturday.

He said Tbilisi had embarked on a new course in relations with Moscow.

“We Georgians want to have good relations with Russia but without detriment to our own sovereignty and independence for which we fought so hard,” he said.

“This is why in relations with Russia we have chosen an approach that is different from that used by our predecessors. We are following a strategy that is based on our commitment to be a responsible, pragmatic and constructive neighbor,” the prime minister said.

Tbilisi began a dialogue with Moscow without preconditions to restore trade, economic and cultural ties. This strategy “produced tangible results and helped to ease tensions between Georgia and Russia”, he said.

“Trade resumed, and Georgia’s exports to Russia increased by 300%. The international exchange also grew substantially. We began to co-exist more peacefully as neighbours. And this approach led to stabilisation in the whole of the South Caucasus,” Garibashvili said.

He has said many times lately that “the Georgian authorities will continue the constructive policy of normalising relations with Russia”.

“Over the year and a half since the change of power in Georgia [when the Georgian Dream coalition won the parliamentary elections on October 1, 2012], the new government has taken concrete steps to normalise relations with Russia,” he said earlier.

The prime minister said Georgia’s policy with regard to Russia was based “on a pragmatic approach and state interests” and had already produced the first real results: “Russia has opened up its market to Georgian products and we have been able to direct relations between the two countries onto the track of constructive dialogue and start normalising relations with Russia”.

He believes it is “very important” that the two countries are developing trade, economic and cultural cooperation and that “in 2013 Russia lifted the embargo on the import of Georgian wines, mineral water and Georgian agricultural produce”.

Russia has for the first time in six years allowed the import of Georgian wine, brandy, tea and dried fruits. Georgian tangerines, apples and pears had returned to the Russian market by November. As a result, bilateral trade turnover has increased manifold, with Moscow ranking among Georgia’s top five trade partners.

President Georgy Margvelashvili said Georgia was waiting for Russia’s initiative to “de-escalate” tensions in relations between the two countries.

“After coming to power the present government of Georgia lent positive dynamics to the normalisation of relations between the two countries and took certain steps to this end,” he said.

Margvelashvili said his country was seeking to ease tensions with Russia as much as possible.

“Georgia is doing its best to ease tensions with Russia as much as possible and lower the political temperature in our relations to the minimum,” he said.

The president said the dialogue between Abashidze and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin had created “many interesting topics, especially in trade and economic relations between Georgia and Russia” and “further exploration of these topics and development of cooperation between the two countries is very important”.

He believes that such consultations “have helped to restore trade, economic and cultural relations between the two countries” and “can foster a high level of trust between the states and provide the background for solving important issues in the future.”

Karasin said earlier that Russia and Georgia wished to build mutually advantageous long-standing relations.

“The era of maniacal animosity that was imposed by the previous leadership of Georgia is history now. We are jointly looking for solutions that would be based on mutual respect and mutual advantages,” Karasin said. “The public opinion in our countries welcomes the improvement of atmosphere in relations between Russia and Georgia. In fact, Georgia has never been considered an enemy in Russia,” he said.