Davit Zalkaliani and Sergey Lavrov, the foreign ministers of Georgia and Russia, have held talks for the first time since the outbreak of the 2008 war between the two countries which was followed by the suspension of diplomatic ties, the Georgian press has reported.
Discussing Russia’s occupation of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) and Abkhazia on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly, Mr Zalkaliani received guarantees from his Russian counterpart that the Prague Economic Talks and the Geneva International Discussions on the settlement of the territorial dispute will continue despite the resignation of Russian deputy FM Grigory Karasin, a key figure in maintaining low-level talks with Georgia, agenda.ge has reported.
“Without their political will it will be impossible to achieve the progress, because it is the power exercising effective control in those territories,” the Georgian FM told the press, pointing to the Russian government.
“(…) We do not want to see NATO near us. However, we entered Abkhazia and Tskhinvali solely to protect locals,” Mr Lavrov told the Russian press after the meeting. While he said relations with Georgia would be spoilt if NATO decided to accept the country’s membership bid, however, he added that it is not in Russia’s interest to start another war.
Commenting on the talks, Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Russian government hoped for “that all the necessary preconditions will be launched in the due time for resuming flights [between the two countries].”
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a complete ban on flights to and from Georgia in early July following mass protests in Tbilisi over Russia’s illegal occupation of Tskhinvali and Abkhazia.
Georgia’s international partners, including the EU, the OSCE and the UN have praised the talks between the two FMs.
“Moving forward, it is important that all actors engage constructively to alleviate the situation of the conflict-affected population in Georgia. It is in this respect essential that their human rights, including freedom of movement, are fully respected,” Maja Kocijančič, spokesperson for EU foreign and security policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed.
“It shows there is hope that constructive dialogue can decrease tensions and strengthen stability to the benefit of all people in the OSCE region,” Slovakia’s foreign minister, Miroslav Lajčák, who chairs the organisation in 2019, said in a statement.