Georgian President’s 'Wish' to Meet Putin Gets Mixed Reaction in Tbilisi

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s recent statement that he would meet the Russian leader to start a dialogue has been met with confusion by Georgian politicians.

Just six months ahead of the presidential elections, Margvelashvili stated at the event dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the First Republic of Georgia, that he dreams of “having a rational dialogue with the Russian leader based on the interests of people and not on those individuals who run the country.”

“I dream about the day I can speak with the Russian leader not because of his current position, but based on the peoples’ interests,” Margvelashvili stated.

The President added that this would only be possible if Georgia got back the Russian-occupied territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"Look at the Russian propaganda against us: they say they will defeat us and we should put up with the existing reality and deny our occupied territories…But an economically and militarily strong America and Europe are on our side today, and let’s see who wins,” he added.

He also assessed the Georgian government’s policy towards Russia as rational, stating that it is “the right approach.”

Zurab Abashidze, the Prime Minister's Special Representative for Relations with Russia, stated it is good that the President of Georgia agrees with the pragmatic policy of the government in relation to Russia, but it is not clear why he started talking about a meeting with the Russian President now, at the end of his presidential term.

"Our government has a pragmatic policy in relation to Russia, which is fully supported by our western partners…The President has had many opportunities to support the Prime Minister and government’s initiatives in this regard, but he did not express interest then,” Abashidze said.

The Chairperson of the Parliament’s Defense and Security Committee, Irakli Sesiashvili, says Margvelashvili’s interests coincide with Russia-affiliated parliamentary opposition party the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia (APG).

“The APG was the only party which praised the President when he was delivering his annual speech at the Parliament in early May,” he said.

Meanwhile, the APG members welcome the statement of the President regarding dialogue with Russia.

“I do not know if this initiative can bring any positive results but in general, dialogue with Russia is good,” APG MP Giorgi Lomia stated.

Nino Burjanadze, the leader of the Democratic Movement, often considered as Russia’s lobbyist opposition party, says dialogue with Russia is necessary, but added that Margvelashvili’s statement is “ridiculous.”

Burjanadze explains that when Margvelashvili was elected in 2013, Putin wanted to meet him. She opined that the president had “wasted his chance” when he refused.

“Margvelashvili’s proposal is late by least for four years and now it only sounds ridiculous,” she said.

The United National Movement (UNM) believes that Russia will use Margvelashvili’s statement for their interests.

“I predict the Russian Foreign Ministry or the Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin will make a statement, saying that Georgia is ready to recognize the ‘new reality’ in the South Caucasus region,” said Grigol Vashadze, UNM member.

Member of the European Georgia party stated they believe Georgia alone cannot normalize relations with Russia.

“The relationship with Russia can only be improved with the involvement of our western partners, sanctions against Russia and maximum usage of international formats,” Davit Bakradze, one of the leaders of the European Georgia, stated.

By Thea Morrison

17 May 2018 21:27