Russia, Georgia Strike Deal on Bases

The Georgian and Russian Foreign Ministers signed a joint communique in Moscow on May 30 which prescribes stages for the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Batumi and Akhalkalaki and which says that the pullout process will be over during 2008.

“We are glad to announce that talks over a joint communiqué, which concerns the important aspect of Russ-Georgian relations, are over. Special attention is paid in this communique to organizing the process of the withdrawal of the Russian military bases – initially from Akhalkalaki and then from Batumi,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a joint news conference with his Georgian counterpart, after the talks.

“The complete withdrawal will be finished during 2008. Stages of this withdrawal are prescribed in detail in the communique – both the pull out of military hardware and the withdrawal of the bases’ personnel, as well as [the process of] handing over those [Russian] military facilities, which are not the part of Batumi and Akhalkalaki military bases, to the Georgian side” the Russian Foreign Minister said.

He said that the communique also reflects the position of both sides that the withdrawal should be carried out in “an organized” manner, “without creating any discomfort to the personnel” of these military bases.

“And we have found a mutually acceptable agreement on how to organize [this process],” Lavrov added.

Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili said that a “very constructive and important step has been made” by signing this joint communique. “We have reached the goal which we were aiming for,” she added.

Zourabichvili emphasized the fact that according to the communique, the process of withdrawal will be stage-by-stage and that this process is prescribed in details – the main issue that Tbilisi wants to see in a final agreement, which will be signed by the Presidents of Georgia and Russia.

“[These stages] will gradually lead us to the prompt withdrawal of the Russian military bases,” she said, adding that the process of withdrawal should not harm bilateral relations between Tbilisi and Moscow, but instead, “should foster to move these relations to a new level.”

Zourabichvili also said that “much is still to be done.” “The process will not be easy. But it has been launched and this is important; we laid the foundation which will enable us to move forward,” she said.

The joint communique also reflects other aspects of Russo-Georgian relations. Sergey Lavrov said that according to this communique the sides pledged to finalize the process of negotiations over delimitation of state borders between Russia and Georgia by the end of this year.

“[In the communique] we have also confirmed our readiness to jointly work over the political settlement of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia through peaceful means,” Lavrov said.

“We think the signing of this communique will foster the development of relations between our countries,” the Russian Foreign Minister added.

He said that experts from the two countries will start working over “technical aspects” of implementation of this joint communique starting from May 31.


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