Georgia will not trade away future membership of NATO in order to secure improved relations with Russia, Zviad Dzidziguri, a representative of the Georgian Dream coalition which won the country’s parliamentary elections in October, said on Monday.
Dzidziguri’s remarks came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday that a meeting would take place between Georgian and Russian representatives in the near future.
The Georgian Prime Minister’s special representative for normalization of relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, said on Monday he would meet Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin later this week as part of the ongoing Geneva discussions on resolution of the situation in the Caucasus
“The Georgian diplomatic team has enough sense to see that normalization of relations with Russia does not occur at the expense of integration with NATO,” Dzidziguri said in a statement on Maestro television.
The Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili became Prime Minister after his party won the October elections. He immediately reaffirmed that his country would maintain its former aspiration to join NATO, as well as improving relations with Russia.
Georgia has had a thorny relationship with Moscow since Georgia left the USSR in 1990, with Russia supporting separatists in Georgia’s breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which declared independence and were recognized as such by Russia in 2008. Russia has repeatedly said it will not accept Georgian membership of NATO.
Meanwhile, the head of Russia’s consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said on Monday it was ready to start talks with Georgian business on resolving the question of allowing Georgian wine and mineral water to be sold in Russia again, following a visit to Georgia by Russian specialists.
“[Georgian businessmen] have sent us letters and we’ll see if we can work with them and find working contacts. After that we’ll see when they will visit us, when we can go to see them,” Rospotrebnadzor head Gennady Onishchenko said.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday Russia was prepared to look at the issue of allowing Georgian food imports to Russia to be resumed.
Rospotrebnadzor banned import of Georgian wine and mineral water in spring 2006 following a dip in Russian-Georgian relations. The ostensible reason for the move was doubt over the safety of such products. Russia was previously a major market for Georgian wine, one of the country’s main agricultural products.