Georgian PM says Russia’s response to his appeal ‘leaves space for conversation’

14 March 2018
Giorgi Kvirikashvili after the October 2017 local elections (OC Media)

Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili has said a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry ‘leaves space for conversation’. The PM has faced pressure for appealing to Russian authorities last Friday, and for the response it received from Russia.

‘There may be a lot which is not acceptable, but one thing must be said: this response leaves space for conversation’, Kvirikashvili said during a scheduled government meeting on 14 March.

‘Let’s take the step, which will bring minor progress. This progress is the source of stability in Georgia. If Georgia needs something in this chaotic world, it is the feeling of stability’, he added.

The PM had appealed to Russian authorities on 9 March calling for ‘sensible steps, even small ones, to lead our relations out of this vicious cycle’. Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a short statement three days later, saying they were ‘satisfied’ with the spirit of Georgian Prime Minister’s statement.

In his appeal, Kvirikashvili also wrote he was ‘ready for direct dialogue with the Abkhazians and the Ossetians’. He was heavily criticised for the statement by a number of opposition groups and civil society organisations, including Transparency International Georgia, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, and the Georgian Reforms Association (GRASS).

In their statement, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said they welcomed Georgia’s ‘direct dialogue with Abkhazia and South Ossetia’, which Moscow recognised as independent in the wake of the August 2008 War.

‘Dialogue with society’

Georgia’s Parliamentary Chair Irakli Kobakhidze said on 13 March that Russia’s response ‘was not an expression of a constructive approach’.

Later the same day, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, Georgia’s State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, told Georgian Public Broadcaster that the Prime Minister’s statement did not mention ‘direct talks with Abkhazia and “South Ossetia”; naturally, this [direct talks] could not happen’, adding that she is ‘sure’ Moscow is ‘perfectly aware’ of this.

Tsikhelashvili claimed Kvirikashvili had meant talks ‘with the Abkhazians and the Ossetians — their society, with whom we envision living with in future and building a future’. Neither Kvirikashvili not other officials specified what such ‘direct dialogue’ would look like, with whom, and where would it take place.

[For details, read on OC Media: Georgian PM under fire after call for ‘direct dialogue with Abkhazians and Ossetians’]

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