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Conservatives call for dialogue on relations with Russia

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, January 20
On January 18 the Conservative Party of Georgia proposed holding public debates on the Georgia-Russia relationship and asked the opposition, the ruling party, the Church, civil society, business persons and the Georgian Diaspora to get involved in these. Opposition parties have expressed varying opinions on this matter, but Government supporters have said that Russia's anti-Georgian activities lie behind the suggestion.

The Conservatives said that the restoration of relations and regaining jurisdiction over the breakaway regions are important and profitable than clinging to the possibility of joining NATO. "At present Georgia has no real chance of integration with NATO. The reintegration of the breakaway regions is unimaginable while we have strained relations with Russia. Let’s express our ideas about the issues significant for our country - restoring the territorial integrity of Georgia, integration with NATO, visa free movement to and from Russia for our citizens and the restoration of trade relations – without hysteria. Such discussions can play a serious role in conflict regulation,” the leader of the Conservative Party, Zviad Dzidziguri, stated.

The Labour Party's representative, Nestan Kirtadze also told The Messenger that her party has always advocated peaceful conflict regulation. "Georgia has made its decision and chosen a European way of development. In this context peaceful relations with neighbouring countries are significant. There is no alternative to negotiations, debates and discussions in conflict regulation,” Kirtadze told us.

The Conservatives’ initiative has been described as positive but not a real or effective step by the New Rights, whose Manana Nachkebia told The Messenger, that conflict regulation with Russia depends on the Government and not the opposition and other parts of the society. "The Conservatives’ initiative can be considered part of public diplomacy, but it will not bring any serious results, as this work is the business of government. The Government should be able to regulate conflicts, but our present Government is unable to do so,” Nachkebia stated.

Majority side MPs take a dim view of such statements. Nugzar Tsiklauri told The Messenger that they demonstrate that the opposition have hidden connections with the enemy. "The restoration of relations with Russia does not depend on Georgia’s goodwill. Having a democratic, developed country in the Caucasus is categorically unacceptable for Russia. The Russian Government will oppose any democratic, free leader in Georgia. We have already had 200 years experience of this. The belief that Russia will change its historical attitude to Georgia based on discussions or debates can be considered naivety,” Tsiklauri stated, adding that some opposition parties are helping the Russian Government fulfil its anti-Georgian goals. "Such statements can however be considered positive because they will persuade the people of the opposition’s connections with anti-Georgian forces, and make it easier for our citizens to see who is reliable and who is not,” Tsiklauri stated.

Georgian analysts have expressed doubts about the possibility of restoring relations by dialogue. "Even if Zhirinovsky was President of Georgia, Russia would not leave Abkhazia and South Ossetia voluntarily,” Soso Tsintsadze has said. Ramaz Sakvarelidze added that Russia will become more active in Georgia during the next Georgian elections and if the Russian Government states that conflict regulation is possible by negotiations this cannot be taken seriously.