Tbilisi and Moscow reject mutual offers of diplomacy
By Ernest Petrosyan
Tuesday, March 13Tbilisi’s refusal to restore diplomatic ties has failed to fulfill Moscow’s expectations, leaving it “disappointed”, according to the Deputy Spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“In response to our proposal to restore diplomatic relations, the Georgian side has once again put forth preconditions – to denounce the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia [by Russia]. Thereby, Tbilisi has no intention to revise its decision about cutting off diplomatic relations with Russia,” said spokesperson Maria Zakharova, in a statement posted on the Ministry’s website.
She added that Russia’s March 2 olive branch, which was declined by Tbilisi, could have bolstered the normalization process for bilateral relations. “It causes disappointment, but it was hardly a surprise for anybody,” she wrote.
The Georgian government reacted to Moscow's proposal by maintaining its previous stance, calling it "unacceptable" for Georgia to have three embassies on its territory (referring to the Russian embassies in Abkhazia and South Ossetia). With few exceptions, this position is supported by both the Georgian government and opposition parties.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also referred to Georgia's unilateral lifting of visa requirements for Russian citizens, saying that it is ready to reciprocate if Tbilisi were to revise its stance on the disputed territories. Zakharova asserted that abolishing the visa regime should be done by “formal bilateral agreements”.
The Georgian government responded that if Russia really desires to abolish visa requirements, it should reciprocate without preconditions.
In the statement, the Ministry spokesperson also noted that Georgia was not providing any guarantee of security for those Russian citizens who might face criminal charges on arrival in Georgia, due to having visited Abkhazia or South Ossetia. This was a reference to Georgian law, which makes it illegal to enter the breakaway regions from territories other than those controlled by Tbilisi; the law also names a series of exceptions to the rule. Violation of the law can result in a fine or jail term of two to four years.
Zakharova also criticized President Mikheil Saakashvili. “He promised Russian guests Georgian wine and Borjomi [mineral water], and mainly the 'air of a free and uncorrupted country'. Everybody is accustomed to such pathos and self-praise,” she said, adding that such theatricality gets more unrestrained as international human rights reports on Georgia become more critical.
Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin has also said that “We will not return back”, implying that Russia will neither reconsider its decision regarding the recognition of Abkhaz and South Ossetia independence, nor withdraw its troops from disputed soil.
Georgian analysts generally agree that, taking into consideration the current state of internal affairs in Georgia and the animosity between Saakashvili and Putin, there is little chance of restoring formal diplomatic ties in the near future.