" Georgia’s NATO membership will be a heavy burden on its relations with Russia" – Russia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Georgia Vyacheslav Kovalenko

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti interview) - Russia's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Georgia Vyacheslav Kovalenko told RIA Novosti about the future of Russian-Georgian relations, Russia's peacekeeping mission in the conflict areas, and potential consequences of Georgia's NATO entry.

Question: What do you think about the current state of Russian-Georgian relations? What are the prospects of their development in the near future?

Answer: Few sober-minded people can be satisfied with our relations today. Neighbors should be friends; they should nurture their friendship and think of the best ways of using it in their national interests and for promoting regional stability. Of course, it is important to have friends everywhere, but next-door neighbors are worth more than far away friends. This does not apply to our bilateral relations, however. During the past year, I was directly involved in this sphere, and I have to say that I didn't feel any interest on Georgia's part in improving bilateral relations. The Georgians can probably explain why. It is not appropriate to discuss it here.

Yet, I don't think that our relations are in a dead end. There is still time to change the course of events. But Georgia needs to display its political will for this. Russia is demonstrating its readiness for better relations. Direct air flights and maritime transportation have been resumed. We could develop important educational and cultural projects. It is time Georgia fulfilled its commitment not to host foreign military bases, and consider the formation of a joint anti-terrorist center with Russia. For the time being, these questions have been shelved. Incidentally, a failure to abide by commitments is bad form. It is vital to change it as soon as possible.

Now the ball is in Georgia's court. I hope that Georgia will reciprocate our moves. It is important to preserve the first signs of improvement.

I would like to explain why I'm optimistic. I can tell that the Georgians have a good feeling for Russians. They miss communication with Russia and Russian culture; they are again interested in the Russian language. This is a good sign. People tell me emotionally about this heartfelt attraction, and emphasize our Orthodox community. Their disarming sincerity is an earnest of better times in the future.

Q: Recently, Russia has been accused of failing in its mission of a mediator in Georgia's conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There are proposals for changes in the negotiating and peacekeeping formats.

A: I don't believe it is right to accuse any side in Georgia's territorial split. Each side of the conflict has its own truth. Instead of establishing who is to blame, it is important to try and understand what needs to be done.

The reality is that the conflicts are more than 15 years old; they have developed their own centrifugal dynamics, and the time of threats is obviously gone. Both sides should be helped to resume constructive dialogue. Some people claim that the current negotiating formats have exhausted themselves. I cannot agree with this, if only because one side of the conflict objects to this idea. Insisting on changing the format means driving the talks into a desperate impasse. It is necessary to include a package of measures into the existing format of the negotiating process, which would promote trust and a search for compromise.

Militarization should give way to economic development; we must restore the economic and humanitarian contacts that have been destroyed. Regrettably, we are now witnessing the formation of parallel administrative bodies. Instead, we should be spanning bridges to build up confidence. Political mentality should not be aggravated by far-fetched allegations and attempts to give up the internationally recognized negotiating formats - it is vital to use them as far as possible in the interests of settlement.

Needless to say, this requires patience and political will. There are no easy solutions but we should think about prospects.

Q: What could you say about Georgia's stormy response to Russia's decision to withdraw from the CIS sanctions against Abkhazia?

A: Russia is interested in peaceful settlement of the Abkhazian problem. It is not indifferent to developments in a neighboring area. Russian citizens also live there. Whatever is said, but Russia and its peacekeepers have preserved peace in this conflict zone for many years. Is this not necessary any more? It is horrible to even think what the situation would be like without the peacekeepers. It is worth considering this. Fully aware of this serious problem, I'm certain that peacekeepers should remain there until a comprehensive settlement is reached.

At the same time, Russia cannot sit and wait when this happens because it is a responsible mediator, and is trying to guarantee security of its own territory. The process of settlement is deadlocked, and Russia decided to withdraw from sanctions against Abkhazia in order to revive the negotiating process. I'm surprised that the emphasis was made on the military dimension, and that this step was not seen as constructive.

I'd like to stress that Russia firmly abides by its international commitments, which ban supply of weapons and military hardware into conflict zones. Allegations to the contrary are unfounded. The economic dimension is vital for settlement, but economic projects should have no political strings attached. This will not help. Emotions are running high in the current situation. They can be removed by time and careful confidence-building measures. I think that the region's future will improve if Russia, Georgia, and Abkhazia create joint economic space, a common market of sorts. Then we could move to political settlement.

Q: What could you say about the frequently repeated idea that Georgia's NATO entry will help it resolve its territorial conflicts?

A: I don't understand why Georgia is demonstrating such great desire to join NATO. I often ask my interlocutors about benefits of Georgia's membership in the alliance, and receive the following answer: This is a way to enhance security, restore territorial integrity, and continue democratic reforms.

It's not for me to judge about this, but I believe the situation is far from unequivocal. Forgive me for saying so, but I think that the hope that NATO will return Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Georgia is rather naive. Incidentally, no NATO official has spoken of any such guarantees. It would be worth keeping in mind here that both republics are emphatically negative about Georgia's NATO entry.

It goes without saying that it's up to Georgia to decide which blocs and organizations to enter. It is an independent country. However, potential consequences of this decision should be thoroughly considered. It is not simply a geopolitical move. It deals with important historical legacy, which cannot but be cherished. It should be clear that Georgia's NATO membership will be a heavy burden on its bilateral relations with Russia. I'd like to hope that our relations will develop in a different, more natural way.

(Interview taken by Besik Pipiya.)

Subscribe to Trend in Google News! Subscribe
Uzbekistan exports $625 million worth of fruits and vegetables in 9 months
Uzbekistan exports $625 million worth of fruits and vegetables in 9 months
Uzbekistan plans to exempt import and sale of meat products from VAT
Uzbekistan plans to exempt import and sale of meat products from VAT
Uzbekistan to produce its first electric cars
Uzbekistan to produce its first electric cars
Loading Bars
FMs of Azerbaijan, Croatia hold expanded meeting in Baku
Azerbaijan's Energy Ministry presents "green energy" dev't concept
Azerbaijani First VP Mehriban Aliyeva shares footages from meeting with former IDPs in Fuzuli (VIDEO)
Turkey reveals its total cargo traffic for 9M2021
Georgia shares data on COVID-19 cases for October 20
Azerbaijan sees rise in cost of cargo transportation by road
Azerbaijani State Security Service's chief meets with VP of ICRC
Iranian currency rates for October 20
Azerbaijan deputy minister talks number of precious metal deposits in liberated territories
Turkmenistan, LUKOIL talk dev’t of hydrocarbon resources of Caspian Sea region
Azerbaijani oil prices increase
Azerbaijan's revenues from mobile communication services up in 9M2021
Turkmenistan to launch "single window" system for export-import operations
Azerbaijani ambassador presents his credentials to King of Belgium
Turkey reveals cargo volume handled from Tunisia in 8M2021
UN launches number of specialized services in Turkmenistan
Amazon lowers threshold for free delivery to Israel
Azerbaijan provides broadcasting of TV, radio channels in liberated Zangilan (PHOTO)
AutoStore, Norway's biggest IPO in two decades, valued at $12.4 bln
Facebook plans to change its name
Kyrgyzstan administers 13,249 vaccines over past day
Iran sees increase in Turkish steel imports for 9M2021
Turkey discloses cargo traffic via local ports from Malta in 8M2021
Georgia ready to develop, deepen strategic partnership with Azerbaijan – PM
Azerbaijan eyes applying Generic Statistical Business Process Model
Explosion destroys army bus in central Damascus
Oil dips as China considers intervention to ease coal crunch
Expert explains why Turkish products in Baku don't fall in price amid devaluation of lira
Azerbaijan, Slovakia ink new deal on economic co-op (PHOTO)
Olympic flame arrives in China for Beijing 2022 Winter Games
Explosion heard in Afghanistan's Kabul
1,683 more COVID-19 cases reported in Kazakhstan
UNICEF to help Turkmenistan increase emergency preparedness
COVID-19 cases worldwide down 4%, deaths down 2% in past week — WHO
UN Security Council to talk North Korea's missile test
U.S. remains prepared to engage with DPRK after missile test: White House
UK foreign minister to visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar
Israel detects 1st case of COVID-19 Delta variant "AY4.2"
Bomb threat issued in Washington DC
U.S. secretary of homeland security tests positive for COVID-19 after full vaccination
North Korea confirms it launched SLBM
Israel says Abu Dhabi crown prince invites Israeli PM for 1st official visit
Volkswagen executive sees global chip shortage running well into 2022
Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry shares Tweet marking anniversary of liberation of Zangilan (PHOTO)
Chronicles of Victory: President Ilham Aliyev addresses the nation due to liberation of Zangilan on October 20, 2020 (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Chronicles of Victory: October 20, 2020
U.S. workers face layoffs as U.S COVID-19 vaccine mandates kick in
21 passengers escape plane safely after crash in Texas, officials say
Facebook to pay up to $14.25 mln to settle U.S. employment discrimination claims
Azerbaijan discloses names of returned Armenian servicemen
Uzbekistan exports $625 million worth of fruits and vegetables in 9 months
UK records highest daily COVID death toll since early March
Ukrainian Bees Airline plans to launch Odessa-Tbilisi-Odessa flights starting October 22
Iranian official dismisses 'tensions' at Astara customs, says activity with Azerbaijan soars
Turkmenistan starts rice harvest in Dashoguz region
Azerbaijan supports all int’l efforts to ensure transparency in extractive industries – minister
Refining activity of Iran's Fajr Jam Gas Refining Company soars
Iran’s Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Corporation sets new record
Azerbaijan's defense minister visits newly established commando military unit (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Iran’s PMO declares data on load/unload operations in Jask Port
Iran intends to increase exports through Astara
Turkey reveals cargo traffic via its ports from Portugal for 8M2021
Exports of Iran to Kyrgyzstan booming
President Ilham Aliyev receives Croatia's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (VIDEO)
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on October 20
President Ilham Aliyev expresses condolences to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price rebounds
Azerbaijan transfers captured Armenian servicemen back to Armenia
Uzbekistan plans to exempt import and sale of meat products from VAT
Turkey shares data on maritime cargo shipment with Russia for 8M2021
Azerbaijan shares data on oil transported via BTC pipeline in 9M2021
USAID to provide additional funds for Kazakhstan to fight COVID-19
Turkey announces data on cargo traffic with Italy for 8M2021
Kazakhstan imposes export restrictions for some timber types
Azerbaijan names locations of future national parks in liberated territories
Azerbaijan demands certain steps from Armenia at UN International Court of Justice
Iran’s 9M2021 Turkish cement imports up
Iran to host meeting on economic co-op with Turkmenistan
Georgian foreign trade turnover increases
Iran increases petrochemicals production
Kazakhstan sees increase in number of open trading accounts
​Iran allocates more funds for oil and gas projects in Ilam Province
Turkey unveils data on cargo traffic via its ports from Spain
Georgia's domestic export up in 9M2021
Value of Turkish cement exports to Georgia for 8M2021 down
Turkey shares data on cargo traffic with Greece for 8M2021
Turkey reveals cargo volume handled from Egypt in 8M2021
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
Azerbaijan confirms 2,102 more COVID-19 cases, 863 recoveries
Cargo traffic on Azerbaijan's section of TRACECA for 8M2021 revealed
IMF lowers breakeven oil price level for Azerbaijan
Saudi index hits 15-year peak as most Gulf bourses gain
Israel's Bank Mizrahi Tefahot to issue $1.1 bln of CPI-linked bonds
Iran seeks to complete semi-finished project related to Lake Urmia's revitalization
Iran imports trucks to renovate transportation fleet
IMF revises up forecasts for Azerbaijan’s non-oil GDP growth
Iran`s domestic appliances production increases
IMF reveals forecast for Azerbaijan’s annual inflation
Iran's imports from neighboring countries up
Turkey discloses volume of cargo shipment via its ports from Singapore for 8M2021
All news