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Russian Foreign Ministry Criticizes Tbilisi’s Policy on Abkhazia, S.Ossetia

Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova criticized Tbilisi’s policies towards Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and called for accepting the independence of the two regions in her interview with Russian TV channel Dozhd published by the Russian MFA on April 22. 

Zakharova said the post-2012 hopes for improving the Georgian-Russian relations “have successfully been realized.” “Bilateral trade was reestablished and increased multiple times, aerial and land transportation have been restored, visa restrictions for Georgian citizens have been lifted, public, cultural, academic, and sports contacts are developing rapidly.”

The Spokesperson then noted that the “normalization process” was not “welcomed by everyone in Georgia, and especially – beyond the country,” adding that it was “not surprising that the opponents of the process clung on to the case of Tatunashvili.” Zakharova, however, stressed the “cynical propagandistic speculations” over the incident, had not affected the relations; “all normalization benefits have been entirely preserved.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson commented on the Georgian Prime Minister’s March 9 appeal as well, saying the Russian side reiterated in its response that Moscow could not discuss with Georgia issues that “fall beyond the bilateral Russian-Georgian agenda,” including the “regretful incident” with Archil Tatunashvili.

“We suggested the Georgian partners to discuss the issue with the South Ossetian side,” she noted, adding that Tbilisi had been reluctant to accept “this logic.” “They continue laying responsibility on Russia for their own inability, and unwillingness, to establish a respectful dialogue with the Abkhaz and the South Ossetians.”

On the Georgian government’s new peace initiative, Zakharova underlined that the declarations of “brotherly love and reconciliation,” came at odds with Tbilisi’s “continuous hostility,” including over the international cultural and sports contacts of the two regions. 

That the use of the Georgian government’s services would not mean confirmation or acquisition of Georgian citizenship, according to Zakharova, was an acknowledgement by Tbilisi that “the residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia do not consider themselves and do not want to become citizens of Georgia, even in exchange for generous promises.”

“Recognition of this crucially important aspect gives us hope that over time, Tbilisi will fully recognize and accept the [new] political reality, that Georgia’s neighbors are two independent nations – the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of South Ossetia; the sooner this is recognized in Tbilisi, the better for Georgia and for all countries in the region,” she stated.

The Spokesperson touched upon the so called “borderization” process along the occupation lines in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, saying the media reports of “a moving border” had never been confirmed, and “a couple of times have even been officially repudiated by the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM).”

According to Zakharova, if the Georgian government “genuinely cared about the residents living in the borderlines,” the issue could have been “easily addressed,” through engaging in “border demarcation” talks with Tskhinvali. 

In the interview, Zakharova also spoke of lifting the visa requirement for citizens of Georgia, saying the Foreign Ministry “does not rule out” such possibility, but for that to happen, the two countries “need to cooperate on matters of security and counter-terrorism, which the Georgian authorities have not yet been willing to do.”

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