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Maia Panjikidze: Georgia to continue normalising relations with Russia

Georgia will continue "consistent policy" towards normalising relations with Russia, Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said.

"Direct dialogue between [Georgian prime minister's special representative for relations with Russia Zurab] Abashidze and [Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory] Karasin has played an important role in this process," she told Rustavi-2 television on Saturday, December 21.

The dialogue has helped "achieve practical results in restoring and developing trade and economic relations, as well as cultural and humanitarian cooperation," the minister said.

However, she stressed that "relations with Russia will not be normalised to the detriment of Georgia's territorial integrity."

Panjikidze said earlier that her country would continue "a balanced policy" to normalise relations with Russia.

"Everyone understands that normalisation of relations with Russia will be a difficult process. At the same time, the format of direct dialogue with Moscow, specifically in the Abashidze-Karasin format, has already produced positive results and this progress should be carried on," she said.

Abashidze confirmed that the talks with Karasin had "produced certain results" in terms of restoring and developing trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation between the two countries.

"The meetings initiated by Georgia helped restore and develop trade, economic and cultural relations, tourism, and human contacts," Abashidze told national television. "This is only the beginning of hard work to normalise relations between the two countries," he added.

Russia has for the first time in six years allowed the import of Georgian wine, brandy, tea and dried fruits. Georgian tangerines, apples and pears had returned to the Russian market by November. As a result, bilateral trade turnover has increased manifold, with Moscow ranking among Georgia's top five trade partners.

The first meeting between Abashidze and Karasin took place in Geneva's suburbs on December 14, 2012 and the following three were held in Prague on March 1, June 5, September 19, 2013, and November 21, 2013.

Russia needs patience and time to understand where its relations with Georgia are, Karasin said. "We expect no quick and easy solutions. We will need patience and time to understand where we are in our bilateral relations, what has become more real and what remains unsolvable," he said.

Karasin said Russia and Georgia wished to build mutually advantageous long-standing relations.

"The era of maniacal animosity that was imposed by the previous leadership of Georgia is history now. We are jointly looking for solutions that would be based on mutual respect and mutual advantages," Karasin said. "The public opinion in our countries welcomes the improvement of atmosphere in relations between Russia and Georgia. In fact, Georgia has never been considered an enemy in Russia," he said.

"Our dialogue started last year and this was our fifth meeting in Prague. There is obvious progress at the talks, trade relations between our countries are expanding, Georgian export to Russia is growing, and cultural ties are becoming more active," the diplomat said.

New Georgian President Georgy Margvelashvili said he would continue efforts to normalise relations with Russia if elected.

"The new government of Georgia has taken a number of steps in the past several months to normalise relations with Russia. This policy will be continued," Margvelashvili said.

The next, sixth, meeting between Karasin and Abashidze is scheduled to take place in Prague in February or March 2014.

[Source: Itar Tass, Tbilisi, 21Dec13]

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