Russian foreign minister speaks of relations with Georgia

Georgia Materials 28 February 2007 14:50 (UTC +04:00)

( С l) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Russian state-run daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta published on February 28 that the resumption of a normal dialogue with Georgia will depend on how Tbilisi behaves towards its breakaway regions and Moscow.

Lavrov said that Tbilisi's attempts to thwart the current negotiating and peacekeeping formats, provocations against Russian peacekeepers and strengthening of military potential confirm that the Georgian side "was preparing" for a forceful resolution of the conflicts.

"We have strictly warned both Georgia and those who are actively inviting Georgia to NATO that we will not permit it. We have stressed that besides common security in this neighboring region, which is so important for the stability of the southern part of Russia, there is another aspect - that is the presence of tens of thousands of Russian citizens in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We are responsible for them," the Russian Foreign Minister said.

On granting Russian citizenship to the residents of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Lavrov said that Russia has simply rendered social support for those people who remained outside Georgia's legal framework following the conflicts.

Lavrov also said that Russia decided to return its Ambassador Vyacheslav Kovalenko to Georgia four months after he was recalled over a spy row with Georgia because Russia observed "certain changes in the actions of the Georgian authorities, the number of provocations against our peacekeepers has decreased, rhetoric has toned down... Talks over gas supplies to Georgia were held in a constructive atmosphere in 2007."

The Russian Foreign Minister also said that the issue of resuming air traffic between the two countries may be solved positively, adding that talks are already underway.

"Nevertheless, further steps to the resumption of normal relations with Georgia will depend on how Georgia acts with regard to the conflicts on its territory," Lavrov said.

He also stressed that Moscow cannot accept Tbilisi's explanations regarding the latter's refusal to sign an agreement on the non-use of force and security guarantees with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali.

"This should be done unconditionally," Lavrov added.