MINSK—Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has expressed readiness to minimize tensions with Moscow with the hope of eventually building friendly neighboring relations with Russia.
“We have initiated a strategy of rational relations with Russia that would bring the tense tone in the relations between the states to a minimum. In this context, we have decided that it makes sense to talk about the issues where we do not have big differences,” Margvelashvili said in a Thursday interview with the Belarus 1 TV channel.
The Georgian leader pointed to some positive developments in Russia-Georgia ties, such as improved trade and active tourism, but stressed that Russia must respect Georgia’s sovereignty.
In August 2008, Georgia severed diplomatic relations with Russia in response to Moscow’s recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. However, the representatives of the new Georgian government that came to power after the October 2012 elections, named normalization of relations with Russia one of the top foreign policy priorities.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said last week that the restoration of Russian-Georgian diplomatic relations depends on the initiative of Tbilisi.
On February 7, Karasin held a meeting in Prague with Special Envoy of the Georgian Prime Minister for Relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the two sides discussed the outcomes of the process of normalizing relations between the two countries in 2016, which focuses on such areas as culture, transport and trade. Karasin also confirmed Moscow’s commitment to further simplify the visa regime and did not rule its eventual cancellation.
During his annual press conference on December 23, 2016 Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that, although Russia was not the one to blame for the breakdown in relations between the two countries, it was necessary to think about their normalization and a possible return to a visa-free regime for Georgian citizens in Russia.