Azerbaijan, Baku, 23 January /corr. Trend A.Gasimova / Azerbaijan may play role of mediator in improving Russian-Georgian relations, said the US expert, Steven Sestanovich.
"I noticed that Mr Saakashvili referred to Georgia's interest in good relations with its neighbors. Certainly all of them, including Azerbaijan, should be telling Moscow that now is the time for a more normal atmosphere," said the scientific employee of the US Council on Foreign Relations and US Department of State's former Coordinator for CIS Countries, Steven Sestanovich.
Crisis relations between Georgia and Russia worsened in November 2007 when the President of Georgia accused Moscow of opposition demonstrations which brought the re-establishment of an emergency situation in the country. The Kremlin described this statement as groundless and once again found Saakashvili guilty of worsening Russian-Georgian relations. After his re-election as President of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, stated that the country's interests included friendly relations with Russia.
"Remember right after he became President in 2004, Saakashvili said the same thing - and Putin's response was quite negative. More recently, Russian politicians have found if useful to demonize Georgia," Sestanovich reported to Trend on 23 January via e-mail. According to him, more recently, Russian politicians have found if useful to demonize Georgia. "Obviously President Saakashvili cannot force Russia to have good relations with Georgia," the expert said.
This should be a moment for both countries to turn the page. Doing so will require considerable political skill on both sides, but other countries can also play a role. "A state of permanent hostility with large neighbor is very difficult for a small country to sustain. What we don't know is whether there is any re-thinking going on in Moscow. After all, a state of permanent hostility has not brought any real advantages to Russia either," he said.
As for the United States and other members of NATO, they have no desire to worsen relations between Russia and Georgia, but they react very badly to Russian suggestions that Georgia cannot become a member of the alliance just because it borders Russia, the expert said.
"As you know, many members of NATO have land and sea borders with Russia, and that has not kept them from having good relations with Russia. If NATO concludes that there is a strong consensus in Georgia for membership (and the Jan 5 left little doubt about that), it concludes that Georgia has met the criteria of membership and will contribute to the common purposes of the alliance, then the process will surely go forward," Sestanovich stated.
According to official results of a referendum held on a par with the presidential elections in Georgia on 5 January, 72.5% of population voted for the country's entry to NATO.