Georgia’s Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili says he wants Georgia to normalise its relations with Russia.
He also expects Georgia to become a member of NATO in the near future.
Those were the two main points in Ivanishvili’s recent keynote speech at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) session in Strasbourg.
After his speech, euronews reporter Natalia Richardson-Vikulina spoke to Ivanishvili.
euronews: “You have come to Strasbourg to attend the PACE session where delegates from Georgia and Russia planned to meet for the first time since the 2008 conflict. Does this mean that relations are gradually improving? Can we expect a ‘reset’ of relations in the near future?”
Bidzina Ivanishvili: “I hope really that the situation will develop in this way and I am doing my utmost to improve relations with our big neighbour. The current situation is in nobody’s interest. Georgia has lost 20 percent of its territory and we will do everything to regain it. At the same time, the current situation is not acceptable for Georgia or Russia. And as I have said we will regain this territory but I would like to emphasize that everything will be done by peaceful means and negotiation. Violence and force are not acceptable, so I reiterate that our goals will be achieved by peaceful methods and negotiations. We hope that the international community will support and help us to achieve this.”
euronews: “Serbia and Kosovo have announced the normalisation of their relations and initialised an agreement in Brussels. Maybe this example will inspire Tbilisi on the normalisation of relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia?”
Ivanishvili: “This is a very good example. It also reaffirms that the world is changing and the people who did not succeed in the past have now found a common language and have managed to somehow come to an agreement. So we should do our best and settle relations with our brothers, the
Ossetians, Abkhazians and of course with Russians.”
euronews: “Recently an investigation of the conflict in 2008 was launched. And Mikhail Saakashvili called it as the Russian scenario. How would you characterise this investigation?”
Ivanishvili: “This is Saakashvili’s strategy. He blames everything he doesn’t like on Russia. And this has been his policy for nine years. It was this policy that actually led us to deadlock. And I think it is normal that the investigation has started.”
euronews: “You expect NATO to commit to making Georgia a member. And your opponent Mikhail Saakashvili supports this. However, you think it’s possible to maintain good relations with both NATO and Russia. But Saakashvili does not agree. Why do you think it’s possible?”
Ivanishvili: “We have quite a few good examples from European countries. Some of them had strained relations with Russia. But they chose the way of Western development and relations improved.
“The best example is perhaps Slovakia. They didn’t spoil their relationship with Russia and acceded to NATO. And I think that this example is exaggerated by Saakashvili. It is possible to have good relations with both Russia and NATO. He was irritated by Russia.”
euronews: “Is it possible for Georgia to become a member of NATO, let’s say, in the next decade?”
Ivanishvili: “Ten years is too long. I think that it can be accomplished much faster. We also need to take into account the dynamics of the changing world. The world is changing. Everything is changing. So in a year or two, Russia itself may change and it may have better relations with NATO.”
euronews: “Do you expect that Georgia will become a candidate for EU membership?”
Ivanishvili: “We would like the European perspective of Georgia to be noted before the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in November. Georgia is heading in this direction at a higher speed than before. Although our opponents say that this isn’t the case, we can say that in the next two years we can have a close association with Europe.”
euronews: “Will Georgian athletes participate in the Winter Olympics in Sochi?”
Ivanishvili: “Certainly. We’ve mentioned that our athletes will take part in the Olympic Games. Sport and culture are the tools for improving the situation, for setting the scene, and specifically the Olympic Games. Take, for example, ancient Greece where even wars were stopped during Olympic Games. So sport and culture will help improve the situation. And we’re even ahead of the situation when it comes to trade. So it will help us in every way.”
euronews: “Oh sport – you are peace!”
Ivanishvili: “Yes of course, oh sport – you are peace, yes!”
FYI: “Oh, sport, you are peace!” refers to the poem “Ode to Sport” by Pierre de Coubertin which won the gold medal for literature at the 1912 summer Olympics.