Russian FM on Relations with Georgia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Russian daily newspaper Kommersant on September 25 that resumption of direct flights with Georgia “will be correct only after the majority of Georgian population realizes a counterproductive provocative nature of the action that took place in the Georgian Parliament” in late June.

Lavrov spoke with Kommersant about the developments in Tbilisi which were triggered by the Russian delegation’s presence at a session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in the Parliament’s plenary chamber on June 20.

He also touched upon the issue of possible abolition of visa rules with Georgia, saying that Moscow was ready to make this decision in 2019. Lavrov noted that the process of making this decision was difficult, but ultimately President Putin made this decision to promote people-to-people contacts and tourism development.

“However, the June developments dragged the entire process behind,” he said. Lavrov expressed hope that the process “has not been buried.” “Sober-minded politicians have emerged in Georgia. Let’s see how things develop,” he added.

The Russian Foreign Minister also spoke about Georgia’s NATO membership. In this context, he rejected assumptions that in its time, Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to hamper Georgia’s accession to the alliance.

When asked what will happen if Georgia becomes NATO member “without Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Lavrov responded: “We will not unleash a war, I promise. But our relations with the North Atlantic alliance and those countries who set NATO membership as their key priority, will be seriously harmed.”

A group of opposition and civic activists gathered in front of the parliament of Georgia, condemning the Russian delegation’s presence at a session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in the parliament’s plenary chamber on June 20.

Responding to forced departure of the Russian MPs from Tbilisi and the anti-Russian tenor of Tbilisi protests, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the temporary ban on flights to and from Georgia starting from July 8, “to protect Russian citizens from violence or other illegal actions.” He also ordered Russian citizens’ evacuation.

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