Testing the Friendship

Russo-Georgian Talks Resume Against Tense Background

Georgia and Russia resumed negotiations on the framework agreement between the two states on June 11 in Tbilisi. Despite the optimism of negotiators, tense relations between the neighboring countries create unfavorable environment for signing and, indeed, ratifying the agreement.

Russian chief negotiator Boris Pastukhov said upon the arrival that he is optimistic and believes that the framework agreement will definitely be concluded.

It is a second attempt to conclude the framework agreement, which is supposed to regulate relations between Georgia and Russia in every aspect. The leaders of the two states have already signed the similar document in 1994, however the Russian Duma did not ratify the agreement, though the Georgian Parliament did.

As Ambassador at Large of the Georgian Foreign Ministry Mikheil Ukleba says, that time there was not a “political will” in Russia to have this agreement ratified.

But with an array of unsolved problems between the two states, such political will might not exist this time in Georgia.

And such problems are quite numerous: Abkhazia and South Osetia, Pankisi gorge, visa regime that causes many difficulties to hundreds of thousands of Georgian nationals living in Russia. One of the most painful problems is an issue of Russian military bases in Georgia. Previous round of the talks was suspended due to re-deployment of the Russian troops into Kodori gorge, which caught both Georgian and Russian negotiators by surprise.

This time, Pastukhov had to answer sharp questions regarding the recently passed amendment to the Russia’s Law on Citizenship, which triggered angry reaction of the Georgian government. “The amendment to the law, which was adopted under the evil intentions of certain group in fact equals to covert annexation and infringement of Georgia’s sovereignty,” said President Shevardnadze in his radio interview on June 10.

According to the amendment, adopted by the State Duma, every citizen who resides on the territory of any former Soviet state and has no citizenship of any country will enjoy simplified procedures for obtaining citizenship of the Russian Federation. This directly applies to the residents of separatist Abkhazia and South Osetia.

“Every country has the right to define internal emigration and passport legislation. But none can violate sovereignty and territorial integrity of other state,” Shevardnadze said.

The President says that this is not “a very friendly action. It contradicts with constructive attitude that has come to exist in relations between Georgian and Russian presidents”. Such negative statements were made right before the third round of negotiations that started on June 11.

During the negotiations, the sides will discuss humanitarian and economic components of the agreement. The economic issues between Russia and Georgia are as tense as military-political problems, agreement on which is expected to be reached in the future. Russia is an only source of natural gas import for Georgia and this circumstance, as the Georgian officials claim, is quite often used by the northern neighbor for political pressure.

By Giorgi Sepashvili, Civil Georgia