|Russia Offers to Thaw Relations with Georgia|
|March 05, 2012|
By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ
MOSCOW—Russia made an unexpected offer late on Friday to Georgia to re-establish diplomatic relations that were severed when the neighboring countries went to war in 2008.
A senior Georgian official said his country was ready to begin a dialogue with Russia, but said relations could not be restored until Russia withdrew troops from two rebel Georgian regions that Moscow recognized as independent after the brief war.
“They want to have diplomatic relations with Georgia while occupying 20 percent of its territory and basically not respecting the very fact of the independence of the country,” the Georgian official, Giga Bokeria, said in a telephone interview. “This is confusing.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry did not indicate in its statement on Friday that Moscow was willing to withdraw troops from the two rebel regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, or recognize Georgia’s sovereignty over them as nearly all other countries do.
In fact, President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia said recently that his nation had supplied the two territories “with enough armaments to inflict disproportionate harm to any invader.”
It was unclear what Russia hoped to achieve by making the offer to re-establish diplomatic relations. The statement from the Foreign Ministry also included a litany of familiar Russian complaints about the Georgian leadership.
“The government in Tbilisi has attempted to create an image of Russia as an enemy, banished Russian language from Georgian schools, removed World War II memorials and rewritten history with the goal of presenting Georgia as having been under Russian occupation for centuries,” the statement said.
The diplomatic offer appeared at the very end of the statement, and it came two days after the Georgian government announced that it was unilaterally lifting a visa requirement for Russian citizens entering Georgian territory in an effort to spur investment.
“Let every Russian businessman know that Georgia is as attractive to Russia as for citizens of any other country; free of corruption, lawlessness and bureaucratic pressure,” Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, said in a statement. “Let the Russian tourists know that they can visit Georgia any time and everyone will meet them with famous Georgian hospitality here.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in its statement that Russia would consider reciprocating on the visa initiative, but it also expressed concern that Russian citizens whose passports indicated that they had visited the rebel territories since 2008 could face legal troubles upon entering Georgia.
Most attempts to rekindle relations in recent years have been haphazard. Russia’s leaders have refused to speak with Mr. Saakashvili, whom they blame for starting the war four years ago. Recently, Mr. Medvedev referred to him as “insane.”
Relations thawed slightly last year, when Georgia accepted a Swiss-brokered compromise that paved the way for Russia to join the World Trade Organization.
|< Prev||Next >|