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Russia Mulls Resuming Direct Flights to and from Georgia

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Russia is considering reversing the flight ban to and from Georgia in the near future, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated on April 21, according to TASS, a Russian news agency.

Lavrov also floated an idea to discuss opening trade representative offices “if Tbilisi were to put forward such a proposal,” TASS reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the flight ban to and from Georgia on June 21, a day after Georgian protesters rallied in front of the Parliament building in Tbilisi to express indignation over a communist-cum-Orthodox Russian State Duma deputy who sat in the chair of the Georgian Speaker while addressing the delegates of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy.

In response 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 July 8, “to protect Russian citizens from violence or other illegal actions.” He also ordered evacuation of Russian citizens from Georgia.

“Unfortunately, we cannot resolve this problem now,” Lavrov said, referring to absence of diplomatic relations with Georgia since 2008. With reference to establishing trade offices, Lavrov noted, that “we must do our utmost to come to some sort of an agreement [with the Georgian side]…We are definitely considering such opportunity.”

In response to Lavrov’s statement, Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani said that “Georgia may only welcome restoring air traffic with Russia, as suspension of direct flights had made life difficult for many Georgian nationals residing in the Russian Federation. It also hampers further deepening of trade and economic relations.”

“It is worth noting, now, as back when the decision was made [by Russia to ban flights to and from Georgia], Russian citizens are not in any danger in Georgia, which was demonstrated by million-strong visitors [each year from Russia.]”

As for restoring some form of diplomatic ties with Russia, Georgia’s chief diplomat stated that Georgia will not tolerate “existence of three embassies within the boundaries of a single state” (Civil.Ge’s note – Russia runs diplomatic representation “offices” in occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region).

Zalkaliani ruled out holding talks to reestablish diplomatic relations “until Russia takes meaningful step towards de-occupying Georgian territories.”

He also emphasized that trade issues could be discussed within the framework of the already-existing Abashidze-Karasin format (an informal channel involving meetings of a Russian and a Georgian diplomat in Prague).

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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