The meeting between the president of Russia and Georgia obviously became one of the top recent political events in Russia. Vladimir Putin and his Georgian colleague, Mikhail Saakashvili, had a conversation in St.Petersburg. As the talks showed, the president did not cut the Gordina knot of contradictions between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
The official meeting started quite late in the evening and ended after midnight. The Georgian delegation did not set forth any claims regarding the late time of the meeting. When the talks started, Vladimir Putin said that Russia was Georgia’s key trading and economic partner. The Georgians working in Russia bring up to two billion dollars to their homeland every year. “This is a lot more than the help Georgia receives from other countries,” the Russian president said. Saakashvili had nothing to do but to agree with Putin.
“Even the monument installed on the central square of Tbilisi [Georgia’s capital] was designed by the President of the Russian Academy of Arts, Zurab Tseriteli,” The Georgian president said expressing his agreement to Putin’s worlds on Russia's role in Georgia. “He has built quite a lot in Russia too,” Putin continued. “But I have noticed that St.Petersburg is the Tseriteli-free zone,” Saakashvili pointed out. “ Not quite. You have not seen all yet,” Putin answered.
Afterwards the president continued the negotiations behind the closed doors. The basic problems in the relations between Russia and Georgia are connected with the unrecognized republics of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Russia’s ban on the import of the Georgian wine.
Putin said that Russia was willing to cooperate on the solution of territorial conflicts. Putin added that the interests of the people should be the top priority in such activities. “We have been discussing a lot on the subject recently. We often hear that a certain political expediency and historical peculiarities should be used as the guiding factor at this point,” Itar-Tass quoted Putin as saying.
To exemplify the successful solution of a potential territorial conflict Putin referred to Chechnya. “It all ended with a national referendum on the Constitution, which stated that Chechnya remains in the territorial and legal field of Russia. No matter what kind of initiative we might have, we must ask people’s opinion if we seek a democratic way for solving the problems,” Vladimir Putin said.
Mikhail Saakashvili did not object to the conflict-solving cooperation. The Georgian president stressed out that Georgia was open for a dialogue. Saakashvili quickly switched to his pet subject. “Unfortunately, even emotions cannot reflect the dramatic situation that has been formed in the conflict zone. On the one hand, Georgia is ready for dialogues. On the other hand, we are witnessing the annexation of our country’s territory. We must resume the constructive dialogue,” said he.
“Georgia is a small and beautiful country. It would be better to leave it alone. We have nothing else to give away, no one is going to get even a meter of either the Ossetian or the Abkhazian frontier. I think that we will be able to solve these questions with Russia. We are doomed to neighbourly relations,” Saakashvili concluded.
That was a rather strange thing to say.
The presidents talked about the ban of the Georgian wines in Russia too. Putin stated that Russia was interested in high quality products from Georgia. The Russian president thanked Saakashvili for establishing law and order in the field of wine exports. According to Putin 60 percent of Georgian wines delivered to Russia were of poor quality.
Mikhail Saakashvili said that a Russian company acquired a well-known wine factory in Georgia. Saakashvili noted that the company purchased the plant to bring things to order in the country. ”You are lucky. Now you will get fine Georgian wines,” said he. Saakashvili added that he would not like Russia to be left without the Georgian wine which could be exported to other countries as well.
Summing up the results of the talks, Vladimir Putin said that Mikhail Saakashvili was an interesting person to talk to. “It is interesting for me to talk to him,” Putin said.
Moscow and Tbilisi have not changed their positions on the discussed issues. The results of the meeting were quite foreseeable, taking into consideration quite a number of anti-Russian attacks from Georgian officials. The meeting itself was a considerable achievement in the relations between the two countries against such a background.
Most likely, Mikhail Saakashvili decided to meet Putin under the pressure of Western patrons. The Georgian administration will not make any serious decisions without instructions from George W. Bush.
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