Georgia will continue to pursue workable diplomatic relations with Russia despite ongoing tensions and the Kremlin’s aggressive actions in Eastern Europe, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili told a domestic newspaper Monday. Russia’s relationship with its neighbors in Eastern Europe suffered in recent months after its annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and purported involvement in the eastern Ukraine conflict.
Georgia will “regulate its relationship with Russia through constructive and pragmatic dialogue,” Garibashvili told a newspaper in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, according to Russian-owned Tass. “Relations with our neighbor country needed adjusting, so more than two years ago, Georgia started direct talks with Russia,” he added.
Russian Foreign Ministry officials met with Georgia’s ambassador to Russia on seven occasions between 2013 to 2014, and new talks are slated for July. Recent negotiations improved the two nations’ economic ties and granted Georgia access to Russian markets, Garibashvili said.
Georgia is one of several nations, including Ukraine, Finland and Sweden, that have been mentioned in recent months as possible entrants into the NATO military alliance. Many Eastern European nations have strengthened their ties with the alliance amid an increase in Russian military exercises and aggression in the region.
A United States naval vessel traveled to Georgia last Sunday to participate in training exercises with the Georgian Coast Guard, Agence France-Presse reported. The trip “reaffirms the United States’ commitment to strengthening ties with NATO allies and partners like Georgia,” the U.S. Embassy in Georgia said in a statement.
Diplomatic relations between Georgia and Russia have been tense since 1991, when Georgia gained its independence from the fallen Soviet Union. The two nations engaged in a brief conflict in 2008 that led Russia to declare the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent, despite Western objections. Some 170 Georgian soldiers were killed in five days of fighting.
Russia’s support for the breakaway regions led a Georgian diplomat to declare diplomacy between the two nations untenable as recently as this month. “Under the current circumstances, when Russia does not recognize Georgia’s territorial integrity within the framework of the [internationally] recognized borders of our country, it is unrealistic to talk about restoring diplomatic relations with Russia,” said Zurab Abashidze, the Georgian envoy to Russia.