Speaker: Georgia ready for constructive cooperation with Russia

January 23, 2007 - 0:0
MOSCOW (Xinhua) -- Georgia is ready to normalize relations with Russia and develop constructive cooperation, parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze said on Sunday.

"The Georgian leadership has made the point on many occasions that it wants relations with Russia to be normalized. But these relations depend on many factors," Burjanadze was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

"Georgia is prepared for constructive cooperation," she said.

Relations between Russia and Georgia nose-dived in late September after the Caucasus nation briefly detained four Russian officers on spying charges. Moscow, infuriated by the arrests, has recalled its envoy to Georgia and imposed an economic blockade on Tbilisi by cutting transport and postal links.

Russia has decided to send its ambassador to Georgia, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, back to Tbilisi.

Burjanadze welcomed Russia's preparedness to normalize relations between the two countries, but said the return of the Russian ambassador would not suffice.

Kovalenko “is returning to a country with which Russia has had for centuries not simply a special relationship, but neighborly and friendly relations,” Putin said in comments shown on NTV television last week.

"Unfortunately, we have recently encountered well-known problems (in bilateral relations)," Putin said in meeting with Kovalenko, adding that last September he met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and agreed on a number of steps to normalize relations. "The first major step was taken in December of last year, when we signed an agreement on Russian natural gas deliveries to Georgia," Putin said. "It is important that the deliveries will be made following market principles."

Georgia’s foreign ministry welcomed Russia’s decision to send its ambassador back to Tbilisi. It said that Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, discussed ways to improve relations and “resolve existing problem” in a telephone conversation Thursday.

Bezhuashvili said also that his country will continue importing natural gas from Russia, Xinhua reported. Konstantin Gabashvili, head of the Georgian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, also hailed the ambassador’s return as a “move aimed to improve relations.”

“The return of the Russian ambassador to Georgia is a good sign in relations between the two countries. We are fully aware that this does not mean an automatic solution of some problems, but this step may become the vector for normalization of bilateral relations. The Georgian authorities are for normalization and development of relations with Russia, taking into account the interest of both countries,” Koto Gabashvili, chairman of the International Relations Committee of Georgia’s parliament, said on Thursday.

Ties between Moscow and Tbilisi have been strained by tensions over Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the country's bid to join NATO since President Mikhail Saakashvili came to power in 2003.