|Ex-Georgian Premier Claims Progress in Trade Talks With Russia|
|March 13, 2010|
By Helena Bedwell
Georgian opposition leader Zurab Noghaideli, a former prime minister, said he made “significant” progress in trade and humanitarian talks with Russia this week.
“I achieved significant results on the resumption of direct flights between Georgia and Russia as well as on allowing Georgian refugees from Kodori and Akhalgori to return home,” Noghaideli said by telephone today. “I set the trend of speaking to Russia. Results are more important than accusations that I’m doing this on behalf of the government.”
Russia banned imports of Georgian wine and mineral water in March 2006, then expanded its embargo in October of that year, cutting road, rail, air and sea links, halting postal service and blocking money transfers after Georgia arrested four Russian servicemen, accusing them of espionage.
Russia routed Georgia’s U.S.-trained army in an August 2008 war over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. In the wake of the conflict, Russia recognized South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, as sovereign countries. More than 100,000 people were displaced during the conflict, according to the Georgian government.
Noghaideli became Georgia’s prime minister in 2005 and was removed from office in November 2007 as President Mikheil Saakashvili lifted a state of emergency declared after violent clashes between police and opposition protesters. Noghaideli moved into opposition a year later.
Saakashvili yesterday downplayed the importance of gaining access to the Russian market.
“The Russian embargo backfired, it’s simply pointless,” Saakashvili said. “They thought they’d cut off our economic links, cut the gas and electricity and we would fail.
But this didn’t happen. The embargo gave us a huge opportunity to send our products to other markets, improve quality and be successful.”
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