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The start of direct dialogue with Russia

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, December 20
The first step has been taken with regard to Georgian-Russian relations. This is the first real effort in this direction since the 2008 August War. Georgia’s newly appointed special envoy in relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gregory Karasin. Of course nothing substantive has taken place during this first meeting. However, the fact itself was very significant. Both sides highlighted their expectations and prospects.

Karasin reiterated that Russia is not going to revise its principle positions and the Georgian side also laid down clear demarcation lines in its position regarding the occupied territories and Georgia’s foreign policy direction.

The Russian deputy minister demonstrated Russia's indifference to regulating relations with Georgia, whereas for Georgia, these relations are of the utmost interest.

Western criticism towards Russia has ebbed some as of late. As such, Moscow has been building up its military presence in the occupied territories, all the while disregarding the opinion of Georgia and the international community. For Georgia's new leadership, the regulation of relations with Russia is among the promises of their election campaign.

Meanwhile, a crucial step may lie ahead for Georgia. Some analysts suggest that Georgia might have to decide whether its future foreign policy will continue to evolve towards the West or if it instead will gravitate towards its northern neighbor.

So far, Russia has rejected any talk of reconsidering its recognition of Georgia’s breakaway territories as independent. This leads us to the next question: will the process of regulating relations with Russia also be contingent on Georgia recognizing their independence?

If Georgia is to change its Western orientation and instead come into Moscow's sphere of influence, will this change of policy pave the way for the restoration of its territories? Which way will prove to be most beneficial to Georgia?

One thing can be said with confidence– the Russia market might soon re-open to Georgian products again. According to the latest information this could happen early next year.

Russia's apparent indifferent attitude towards the South Caucasus and in particular Georgia is not absolute. Strategically it would prefer having an ally there– not an enemy. The government in Yerevan is firmly under Russian patronage, but the two countries do not have direct land connections. With an improve relationship with Georgia, this might change.

There are great hopes and expectations from the both sides; but hopefully this new-found dialogue will not act as a substitute for the Geneva talks. Instead, an optimum situation would be that these important discussions become mutually complimentary.