Is Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov coming to Georgia?
As the presidency of the Council of Europe, Georgia will host the 130th meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on May 14-15, 2020.
All foreign ministers of the member states of the Council of Europe are supposed to come to the meeting: among these countries is Russia, whose delegation will likely be headed by Russian FM Sergey Lavrov.
Will a delegation led by the Russian Foreign Minister come to Georgia? With the onset of 2020, Georgia has already begun to discuss this issue.
Diplomatic relations between Georgia and Russia were severed after the August 2008 War. Russian officials of Lavrov’s rank have not been to Georgia for 12 years. The visit to Tbilisi of Sergey Gavrilov, an ordinary Russian MP as part of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in June last year, and his speech from the rostrum of the parliament, was followed by a rally of many thousands of protesters and the resignation of parliament speaker Irakli Kobakhidze.
Will this law be applied to Lavrov, or will Georgia accept him into the country and the Russian delegation that will accompany him?
The Georgian Foreign Ministry has so far not confirmed or refuted the possible visit of Lavrov.
Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze said that if Lavrov arrives in Georgia, “he will be met with protest because our territories are occupied.”
“In Georgia, Lavrov will encounter a very principled position of the authorities that Russia must fulfill all its obligations. There will be concrete conclusions and assessments regarding cases when the rights of our citizens have been grossly violated, including murders, kidnappings and illegal detentions,” Talakvadze said.
When asked whether the Georgian side would allow Sergei Lavrov into Georgia, Talakvadze replied that “other structures are involved in border crossing issues.”
“I can’t say [whether the] foreign minister of another country will come or not. Georgia assumed the presidency of the Council of Europe, and we took responsibility for the events that are traditionally held by the presiding countries, including at the ministerial level,” Talakvadze said.
According to a leader of the opposition European Georgia party Gigi Ugulava, Sergey Lavrov violated the law on the occupied territories, so he has no place in Georgia.
As Ugulava said, anyone who allows Lavrov to enter Georgian-controlled territory will break the law and “sooner or later will be called to account.”
“When the government of the Georgian Dream came, the first thing they wanted to do was to abolish the anti-occupation law, so you can expect everything from them, but the law is the law. It is valid for both ministers and for ordinary citizens. Lavrov violated Georgian law and should not be allowed into the controlled territory of Georgia. All who let him in will become violators”, said Ugulava.
Experts believe the visit of Sergey Lavrova will cause protests from a large part of the population, and thereby will benefit the opposition, which will cause tension in the country.
Expert Tornike Sharashenidze believes that the government of the Georgian Dream party has arrived at an the impasse, and the only way out is to give up the ministerial:
“The Georgian Dream is at a complete loss. Sergey Lavrov must come, since he is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Member State of the Council of Europe. What can you do to prevent him from coming? It’s only the government that can do that. This will cause even more tension in relations with Russia and Georgia, and won’t work so easily.
“The only way out for the government is to avoid the ministerial, because it is inconceivable that the visit of Sergey Lavrov pass quietly in the country and not exacerbate the situation,” says Tornike Sharashenidze.
Founder of the Georgian Institute of Politics Korneli Kakachia, Georgia will have to accept the Russian delegation, and if it refuses to do, this will damage the country’s international reputation.
As Kakachia said in an interview with Interpressnews, the situation is rather delicate, but Georgia is the chairman of the Council of Europe and took on an international commitment to establish normal working conditions for all delegations, including Russia’s.
“This is a very sensitive situation, given that Georgia is currently the presiding country, and naturally, it can not abandon these obligations. The internal context associated with occupation and the occupied regions is also important. We already have had such an experience, when for example, sports teams from Kosovo came to Georgia, although Georgia did not recognize Kosovo. There is a similar solution here,”Kakachia said.
At the same time, Kakachia believes that there is no possibility of a repetition of the events that followed the visit of Sergey Gavrilov.
“The context here is different. Gavrilov was invited by the ruling party, and this time the issue is that Georgia is the chair of the Council of Europe and must fulfill its obligations. I do not think that the Georgian opposition does not understand this and does not see the differences in this context,” Kakachia said.
On November 27, 2019, Georgia became the chairman of the Council of Europe and will hold the post for six months.