Lavrov: US Seeks to Block Normalization of Ties between Russia, Georgia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow suspects that Washington is trying to inhibit Russia and Georgia from normalizing their ties.

"We fear that our American colleagues are trying to do everything possible to prevent Russia and Georgia from normalizing their relations; this has been obvious over the past few years," Lavrov told Russian media.

Lavrov’s statement came when commenting on the massive protests launched in Tbilisi on June 20 following the visit of Russian parliamentarians.

The demonstrations were sparked by a session of the General Assembly of the International Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO). Following the approved protocol, Head of the Russian delegation, State Duma MP Sergey Gavrilov, who is the IAO President, took the Parliament Speaker’s seat in the Georgian Parliament. Outraged by this, the Georgian opposition disrupted the event and the protests outside later that day saw demonstrators attempting to break into the Parliament building. The assembly was wrapped up and the Russian MPs had to leave the country.

The Russian FM noted that some analysts have focused on the fact that “several days before these provocations were staged in the Georgian Parliament, the head of the Biden Foundation visited Tbilisi and worked actively not only on the sidelines but also spoke publicly discouraging the development of ties with Russia."

"That is why this cannot be ignored," Lavrov added.

Earlier, the Russian top diplomat said the recent anti-Russian protests and subsequent clashes in Georgia are “yet another example of the results of geopolitical engineering” performed by Western politicians.

“The Western supervisors are ready to turn a blind eye to Russophobia and rioting by ultra-nationalists, as long as they get to rip apart all the ties the people of Georgia have with our country, and rewrite our common history,” he claimed.

However, Lavrov underlined that Russia does not isolate itself from anyone, nor does it distance itself from a dialogue on the issues where there are opportunities for joint mutually beneficial work in order to suppress problems common to all Mankind, such as terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“Moscow remains open to dialogue and partnership wherever it is possible to neutralize the common threats to all humanity,” the Minister stated.

He also questioned the claims made by Georgian authorities and politicians that Russian guests were safe in Georgia, recalling that Russian lawmaker Sergey Gavrilov had also been a guest in Georgia, but nevertheless “was attacked during his visit.”

“We hear the Georgian PM saying that all the guests are safe. But we must not forget that Mr. Gavrilov and members of his delegation were also guests in the strictest sense, and they were not safe. And of course, the [Georgian] President’s words that Russia is an enemy and an occupant do not improve the way Russians are treated in Georgia," Lavrov said on Tuesday.

Lavrov said Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili’s statement was inciting “extremist, nationalist and anti-Russian moods that are manifested on the streets of Georgia.”

Following the riots on June 20-21 which left at least 240 people injured and 300 arrested, Zurabishvili said in a statement that Russia had attempted to "split Georgian society, weaken it, enslave the state and destroy the basis of the country's independence."

Official Tbilisi says the Russian lawmakers were not attacked. The authorities also note that the safety of all tourists and guests, including Russian ones, are properly ensured in Georgia.

Following the anti-Russia protests, Russian President Vladimir Putin banned flights to Georgia and control on Georgian wine exports to Russia has been tightened.

By Thea Morrison

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27 June 2019 18:03