Officials Say Tbilisi, Moscow Nearing Accord on Bases

Russian President Vladimir Putin noted in phone conversation with his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili on May 26 that Tbilisi and Moscow “are closer” to a compromise decision over the timeframe of pullout of Russian military bases from Georgia, the Russian President’s press office reported.

Officials from the Russian and Georgian Foreign Ministries held talks over the bases on May 23-24 in Tbilisi. After these talks the sides noted progress, but as the Georgian Foreign Ministry reported, “agreement has yet to be reached on the timeline for the withdrawal,” which will become the subject of the next rounds of negotiations. Details about what is the main source of disagreement remains unknown as both, the Georgian and the Russian Foreign Ministries, refuse to make a comment in the process of negations.
But Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili stressed in an interview with Georgian daily 24 Hours on May 26 that these talks can not last for a long period of time.

She said that the Russian side mainly cites technical problems as the only obstacle of withdrawal. “They [the Russian officials] say: what shall we do with our soldiers, much money is needed for their accommodation, where shell we take them etc,” Zourabichvili said.

There are signs that the sides are also closer to a compromise over the issue, involving non-deployment of the third country’s troops in Georgia.

Russian Foreign Ministry hailed President Mikheil Saakashvili’s statement made on May 25, that Georgia has no plans to deploy troops of the third country on its soil after the withdrawal of the Russian bases. But the Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated that Tbilisi should reflect this position in a legally binding commitment.

“We welcome this statement [of President Saakashvili]. It also voices the position of the Russian Federation… It is necessary to include this stipulation as a binding commitment in a legal document,” Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, said in an information note issued on May 26.

Previously, when making statements about this issue, the Russian officials were also insisting to include this kind of binding commitment of Georgia in a comprehensive framework agreement between the two countries. But Georgia was always against and instead offered that the Georgian Parliament was ready to adopt a special resolution banning deployment of foreign troops.

Talks between Tbilisi and Moscow over military bases also involve discussions about setting up of a joint anti-terrorism center in Georgia. Some politicians in Georgia fear that this proposal over joint anti-terrorism center can appear an attempt by Moscow just to rename its bases in Georgia.

Georgian Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze said on may 25 after a meeting of the parliamentary bureau, which discussed this issue that she is not against of setting up of this center. But she added that this center should not be located on the territory, where Russia’s military bases are currently stationed in Batumi and Akhalkalaki and the center should not have military hardware and army personnel.


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