Tbilisi and Moscow: in search of dialogue24.09.2010 | 10:40
Georgian opposition keeps setting up a Georgian lobby in Russia. Koba Davitashvili, leader of People's Party and Kakha Kukava, a Conservative, have been to Moscow for the second time over the past half year. The latter told journalists about Russia's readiness to start talks on humanitarian situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as restoration of economic ties with Georgia. GeorgiaTimes correspondent got in touch with Mr. Kukava to sum up the results of the voyage to Russia.
Please tell us about achieved and non-achieved objectives on your trip to Moscow?
Our primary objective is to resume Georgian-Russian relations and get the discussion between two nations going. As things are now this is particularly important since officials, particularly Georgian officials, are full of hostile rhetoric. We don't believe it right, particularly to Georgia since we are a small country. That is why our party launched this initiative to get the discussion started. By the way this happened after the speech by our holy patriarch of Georgia calling on all Georgians to start a peaceful dialogue with the Russian Federation.
The main question of this discussion must be the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia that Russians, Georgians, Abkhazians and Ossetians would agree to. Besides, we would like to discuss economic issues in Moscow-Tbilisi relations. We had meetings with political parties, public organizations and the Georgian diaspora in Russia. I believe that in a few months' time we will open a public debate to discuss issues above. The debate format is under definition. Certainly political decisions can be taken by the authorities of two states only, but parties can mobilize public opinion for such decisions.
Was there anything principally new in the words of Russian politicians in Moscow?
Yes, Russian politicians have a different vision of the current situation from what we hear on Georgia's governmental channels. Only hostile comments are selected for the republic's audience. Yes, some political circles in Russia are hostile toward Tbilisi, but this is neither all Russia nor the whole of political elite. There are opinions that a consensus can be found between countries, that Moscow can facilitate Georgia's dialogue with Abkhazians and Ossetians in order to find a compromise status and start reviving economic relations at this stage.
Here is an example: air communication between the countries was resumed on Russia's initiative when the Georgian government opposed the idea. That is why when we are told the dialogue with the RF is pointless this is wrong. Certainly, it is difficult. Moscow has its ambitions but if all post-Soviet republics except for Georgia could reach a consensus with Russia, we think this will be possible for Tbilisi too. Certainly we will pursue a more constructive foreign policy. Armenia, Ukraine and Baltic States have already done that, and I don't see why we can't. To achieve that we must act reasonably avoiding statements like those by Mikheil Saakashvili that we allegedly must overthrow Putin and that a new Russian leadership must set in. These words by Georgian government sound simply comical.
You were subject to a PR campaign for your trips to Russia half a year ago. Is it possible this time?
Now there is no such campaign going on. Our party knows why. After the trip to Moscow in April the public opinion was stronger than the authorities despite loud statements about "traitors and spies". According to some opinion polls, over 80% of Georgian population favors the start of a dialogue with the Russian Federation. After that even Gigi Ugulava, a candidate to the position of Tbilisi mayor from the dominant party said he speaks for the dialogue with the RF. Now the public opinion is on your side so I don't think the authorities will launch a campaign. They know a priori that the Georgian society is against continued confrontation Mikheil Saakashvili pursues.
Will you continue visits to the Russian capital?
Yes, like I said, we suggest public debate on Russian-Georgian relations. Certainly we need working meetings in Moscow for this purpose. So such visits are still an option.