Putin promised to abolish visas for Georgians and to establish relations with Tbilisi

Putin promised to abolish visas for Georgians and to establish relations with Tbilisi

President Vladimir Putin’s big annual press conference said that Russia is ready to abolish visa regime with Georgia, because Moscow sees “the signals from the current leadership of Georgia, and these signals are accepted”.

MOSCOW, 17 Dec –. Russia to meet Georgia and to abolish visas for the citizens of this country, said Thursday the President of Russia Vladimir Putin at a big press conference. In Georgia, which a few years ago abolished visas for Russians, reacted positively to the proposal of Moscow. Deputies of the state Duma hope that the cancellation might happen in the near future, but industry experts believe that the first countries to resume diplomatic relations, broken in 2008.

Moscow saw positive signals from Tbilisi

After the change of power in Georgia in 2013 in relations between the two countries has been long-awaited warming, diplomats were carried out joint work in this direction, the Russian Federation, in particular, pursued a policy of liberalization of the visa regime for Georgian citizens. However, the Russian foreign Ministry stressed that the complete abolition of visas it may be only after the restoration of diplomatic relations, broken in 2008 after the conflict in South Ossetia.

And here at the annual press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a statement that Russia is ready to return to a visa-free regime with Georgia. “With regard to the visa regime… Yes, we think we are ready to cancel visa regime with Georgia”, — said the Russian President.

Answering the question about the prospects of restoring relations between Russia and Georgia, Putin said that the blame for the events of 2008 and “degradation” of bilateral relations rests on the shoulders of the Georgian leadership “entirely”. “We were the initiators of the collapse of these relationships, but we are ready to restore it,” he said.

According to the President, today Moscow sees “the signals from the current leadership of Georgia, and these signals are accepted”.

“Please note, two thirds of wine and wine materials from Georgia’s export volume goes to the Russian market, and not somewhere abroad. We take these products as well as other. The volume of trade has increased. Now this year in connection with the overall economic situation is slightly bowed, but overall it shows very large growth,” he said.

Russia introduced a visa regime with Georgia in December 2000 because of the threat of falling into its territory of terrorists from the Pankisi gorge. Subsequently, however, Moscow has significantly liberalized the procedure for issuing visas to Georgian citizens. Georgia abolished the visa regime for visiting the country of Russian citizens on 29 February 2012.

Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia in response to Moscow’s recognition of independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in August 2008 after the armed aggression of Tbilisi against Tskhinvali. Representatives of the new Georgian government that came to power after the elections in October 2012, was named one of the top priorities of foreign policy normalization of relations with Russia.

A step in the right direction

Moscow’s proposal has already responded in Tbilisi. In particular, the Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili said that he called Putin’s words about the abolition of visas step in the right direction.

“We looked at today’s announcement of the President of Russia about the possibility of abolishing the visa regime with Georgia. I think it’s a step in the right direction”, — noted in the statement of the Prime Minister.

The Chairman of the foreign relations Committee Parliament of Georgia Tedo Japaridze also called the news exciting and a positive step.

“This is an interesting statement, considering the fact that Georgia itself had long been abolished visa regime with Russia. This is a positive step, provided that it is implemented,” — said Japaridze.

How soon can cancel the visa?

The head of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs Leonid Slutsky hopes that Russia will return to a visa-free regime with Georgia in the near future. “I hope this will happen soon, because it’s long overdue,” said Slutsky.

First Deputy head of the faction “Fair Russia” Mikhail Emelyanov believes that the decision on the abolition of visas with Georgia can be made fast enough, its implementation may slow down only if you will change dramatically the international situation, and Tbilisi will take hostile steps against Moscow.

“If Putin said it, then it can be taken very quickly. You do not need any special laws. The only thing that can hinder is the change in the international situation. If the relations between Russia and the West escalates, any move by the West towards Russia may provoke Georgia to any unfriendly steps against Russia,” said Emelyanov journalists.

According to him, Russia’s relations with Georgia, there are small positive shifts after the departure of Mikhail Saakashvili. The position of Tbilisi, though not Pro-Russian, Western retains the priorities, but it is not as aggressive as it was earlier, the MP said. “So, if there is an opportunity to improve relations, then why not to improve, given that the bulk of Georgians are not anti — Russian people,” he said.

First, diplomatic relations, then the abolition of visas

Industry experts believe that the first countries to resume diplomatic relations, broken in 2008, and only then Russia will cancel visas.

Deputy Director of the Institute of CIS countries Vladimir Zharikhin drew attention to the fact that without action by Tbilisi to restore diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation the visa-free system will remain impossible. “Diplomatic relations have been suspended by Georgia. Strictly speaking, Russia never objected to restore them, but without this step of Georgia, without restoring relations may not be the next step — the abolition of visas”, — said the expert.

“It is not that a visa-free regime was introduced without the normalization of relations,” said Zharikhin.

Executive Director of the Russian political science center “North — South” Yulia Yakusheva also expressed the view that the abolition of visas should follow the restoration of diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tbilisi. “It is in Putin’s words, of course, was not about the decision, and readiness to proceed to the discussion of this issue. I think that it was a demonstration of readiness for a rapprochement in bilateral relations”, — said the expert.

“Now we have dynamically developing economic ties, humanitarian dialogue, and so it is quite logical and breakthrough would be the restoration of diplomatic relations and the lifting of visa restrictions to Georgian citizens”, — said Yakushev.

Director of the International Institute of the newest States Alexey Martynov is confident that now must be followed by the warming in relations of Russia and Georgia: while the anti-Russian rhetoric has already gone, action was needed, such action could be Georgia’s participation in integration processes on the post-Soviet space.

The expert did not rule out the possibility of Georgia’s participation in the Eurasian economic Union. “About the warming of relations with Georgia — I am sure that such warming will, of course,” — said Martynov.

He noted that this trend is already visible in the economic sphere, and in the tourist industry. “More and more Russians visit Georgia and in Georgia are glad to Russian tourists. All this anti-Russian rhetoric in the past, though of course, rhetoric is rhetoric, but we would like real action. For example, more active participation of Georgia in integration processes on the post-Soviet space,” — said the expert.

“I don’t rule out Georgia’s participation in the Eurasian economic Union, particularly in the context of aggravation of Russian-Turkish relations. This applies, by the way, Azerbaijan — I mean the economic integration of the Transcaucasian States under the auspices of the EAEC. We hope that it will be, what will be the relationship to improve, that relationship will be mutually beneficial, and not Vice versa. That is, if it’s a more emotional issue for the Transcaucasian States is a matter of survival,” says Martynov.

Critical questions, key statements, photos from the event and video — online-a report from the press conference of Vladimir Putin on ria.ru >>