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The Georgian Patriarch's visit to Russia

By Messenger Staff
Friday, January 25
Immediately after celebrating his 80th birthday and 35 years as the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarch Ilia II visited Moscow. It seems that the major primary aim of his visit was to try to reestablish normal relations between Georgia and Russia.

In Russia Ilia II expressed the views of the Georgian populace-that Georgia will never recognize the independence of the breakaway regions but also wants normal relations with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin did not respond to the issue of Georgian territorial integrity but he did express his gratitude towards the Georgian Patriarch for his concern about restoring friendly relations between the two nations.

Much of what takes place in Georgian politics relates to the country's relation with its northern neighbor. One of Georgian Dream's major election campaign promises was the normalization of relations with Russia while simultaneously maintaining Georgia’s Western orientation. Western leaders have also advised Georgia numerous times to normalize relations with Russia.

Meanwhile President Saakashvili has declared to a world audience that Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream coalition are abandoning Georgia's Western orientation and returning the country to the Russian orbit.

Since Georgian Dream took power in October diplomatic relations between Georgia and Russia have been moving in a positive direction-however Tbilisi and Moscow are far from reestablishing diplomatic ties. In a sense Ilia II's trip to Moscow might provide a breakthrough. The Georgian Patriarch is the most respected person in the country. If anybody hopes to normalize Georgian-Russian relations he/she would have to agree that Ilia II's role in this regard is essential. During his trip to Moscow Ilia II stated numerous times that the two nations should be friends and Russia needs a strong, united Georgia and vice versa.

This position is shared by most Georgians. Overall it seems that Ilia II was greeted warmly in Moscow and though no concrete answers to his answers were given dialogue occurred.

Of course, the governments of the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were irritated by Ilia's visit and evaluated it skeptically. Regardless a positive step was taken and more positive steps should be taken.