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People’s diplomacy: the dialogue is renewed23.12.2008 | 17:28
At the end of last week the Georgian public figures' delegation finished their visit to Moscow. Russia's Public Chamber was to invite their colleagues. At the level of the people's diplomacy the dialogue between Russia and Georgia has been resumed. The results of the meeting are satisfying to both Moscow and Tbilisi.
This is already a success. Right after the August conflict even art and culture people were engaged in reciprocal accusations. And now four months later the Russians and Georgians managed to get together and look into each other's eyes and agree that it is pointless to search for the innocent and the guilty - destroyed trust needs to be rebuilt.
It is true that the warming-up of relations on the interstate level, resumption of diplomatic ties and (if not friendly as before at least normal) neighborly relations are well in store. But the participants of the meeting where rights defending activity was the main topic hope: their initiative and their cooperation are a very important prologue.
We asked some participants, representatives of Russia's Public Chamber, to share their views and summarize the result of the dialogue.
"Holocaust" foundation president Alla Gerber says: "I have very good impressions of the meeting - positive and optimistic. Most importantly we have managed to avoid mutual reproaches at least on the level of public representatives. As when a severe illness is cured the temperature must be brought down first thing. This is what we have tried to do. To scale down intensity of emotions, abandon reproaches and accusations and start restoring the past on a favorable ground. Our second meeting is planned for January and will take place in Tbilisi".
And before that, as Alla Gerber reminded, till the end of this year the Russian delegation chaired by Mikhail Shvydkoy, Counselor to the President of the Russian Federation on culture, will go to Tbilisi for "Faith and knowledge as the basis of the world culture" conference. No doubt it will contribute to improvement of relations.
She especially emphasized the importance of joint efforts of the Russian and Georgian rights defenders. "People that suffered in the war regardless of their nationality need help. These problems are a real challenge in Akhalgori district (where disputes over territorial quality are in progress - ed.). But our colleagues and we are ready to solve the current problems together".
A.Gerber revealed an intention of the Russian Public Chamber to popularize Georgian art starting from cinema and theatre in an active manner. "Following the August events the public sentiment towards everything that is Georgian has grown more negative. We must not allow that. - she pointed out. - I hope our call on the authorities for resumption of air communication between the two countries will be heard. Surely this step will have a positive effect on cultural and public links".
Executive director of Moscow human rights bureau Natalia Rykova believes that the real result of this meeting is the creation of two commissions with the Russian Public Chamber on overcoming of the results of the conflict in the Caucasus. One commission will be occupied with investigation of war crimes in South Ossetia and assistance to aggrieved civilians. The second will organize help to servicemen that were injured in the peacekeeping mission. She also hopes that in the near future the Georgian non-governmental organizations will be involved in joint rights defending work in this complicated region.
By the way the representatives of such organizations - from Russia, Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia - had a chance to communicate during the meeting mentioned above.
Natalya Rykova says that one of the noticeable results in the near-term prospect is the specification of lists of captives and persons missing in action by the Russian rights defenders. "I hope we'll set up interaction with our Georgian colleagues. We would like to visit Akhalgori district together and jointly help people that are in a disastrous situation to solve their problems".
Director of Human rights institute Valentin Gefter adds: "We plan joint humanitarian programs in Akhalgori and generally creation of the unique Russian-Georgian information field, a site in particular where the positions of both parties will be reflected".
The Georgian delegates were highly positive about the visit to Moscow in their interviews with Georgian media. There is a conviction in Tbilisi that the statement of Russia's head sanitary inspector Gennady Onishenko on probable cancellation of embargo on Georgian products is not accidental. By the way it is the head of the Georgian delegation, the president of strategic surveys center "Azri" Malkhaz Gulashvili expressed such a wish. "The way to partnership and a constructive dialogue lies through settlement of economic ties", - he says.
All Moscow guests without exception express their hope that the voice of the Russian people on resumption of direct air communication between the countries will be heard too.