Russian MFA spokeswoman: “Georgia has finally acknowledged that the Ossetians and the Abkhaz are not Georgian citizens”
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Russian TV channel Dozhd that the relations between Russia and Georgia are steadily improving.
“In 2012 when Georgian Dream expressed its interest in bringing Russian-Georgian relations out of the crisis, we immediately reacted. A process of normalization began, which has produced a number of positive results over the past few years,” Zakharova stated.
In her interview with Dozhd, Zakharova touched on several concrete issues regarding the relations between Russia and Georgia:
Zakharova said that the Tatunashvili case was an ‘unfortunate incident’, referring to Archil Tatunashvili – a Georgian citizen who recently died in unknown circumstances while in police custody in South Ossetia. Zakharova said she did not believe that the case would ruin the positive results achieved in recent years in the relations between Russia and Georgia.
“Both in Georgia and beyond, many don’t like that the relations between the two countries have been improving. For that reason, it is not surprising that they jumped on the Tatunashvili case … but, despite the cynical and propagandistic speculations, they were unable to negatively affect the relations,” Zakharova said.
She added that some Georgian media outlets tried to instil hatred towards Russia and its politics, but that they had been unable to do so thus far.
Zakharova said that relations with Russia have always been subject to domestic political discussions in Georgia. She further asserted that Georgian media outlets tried to blame Russia for all of the country’s ills instead of trying to find a real solution to the historic conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“Hundreds of thousands of tourists have felt the warmth with which Georgians have welcomed Russian tourists in the country. The ‘Law on The Occupied Territories’, however, is something else entirely. Until this law is abolished, nobody is safe from provocations and we are obligated to inform our citizens of such a possibility,” Zakharova stated.
Barbed wire fences
Zakharova also claimed that South Ossetia has long offered Georgia to ‘re-examine existing maps and to jointly define where the borderline is’ between Georgia and South Ossetia.
“For the local population, it is important that these lines exist in reality in order to avoid border violations while farming.”
However, Georgia does not wish to follow up on this offer ‘in order to have a constant theme of speculation concerning the allegedly ‘creeping border’. For that reason, Zakharova said, South Ossetia has had to work on demarcating boundaries by itself. She said the protests by the Georgian side were little more than ‘a show with hired extras’.
On Georgia’s new peace plan
Zakharova said that residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia did not consider themselves Georgian citizens and did not wish to become ones in the future. She further said that the new peace plan called ‘A Step Towards a Better Future’ which was recently proposed by Georgia, practically confirms this fact.
Zakharova pointed out one clause of the document saying that Abkhaz and Ossetians could benefit from Georgian state programmes without necessarily applying for Georgian citizenship.
“Tbilisi has put forward yet another peace initiative. The text emphasizes that the participation of the residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in these Georgian programmes does not mean that [they] must become Georgian citizens first. In this manner, Tbilisi has finally acknowledged what has long been clear: residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not citizens of Georgia and they do not desire to acquire Georgian citizenship even if it gives them enormous benefits,” stated Zakharova.
She said it might mean that Georgia has finally come to terms with reality and that this ‘will be the best solution for all’.
The aim of the programme is to present residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with a range of benefits and privileges concerning commerce, economic activity and education. Moreover, they are presented with the opportunity to make use of Georgia’s visa-free travel agreement with the European Union.