AA will strengthen Georgia, not impair others, says Georgian official

Russia continued to occupy 20 percent of Georgian territory - Abkhazia and Tskinvali regions.
Agenda.ge, 23 May 2014 - 15:19, Tbilisi,Georgia

A local official says Georgia’s plans to sign the Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union (EU) is not directed to negatively affect anyone but benefit the country, as a Moscow official claims Georgia could face "consequences” after signing the agreement.

Georgia’s Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze reaffirmed Georgia’s European integration aspirations and said the AA only intended to make Georgia stronger and a more democratic country. She said this agreement would also benefit its neighbours.

Panjikidze spoke out in response to yesterday’s statement by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich, who accepted it was Georgia’s sovereign right to sign the AA with the EU but said the country should also understand possible consequences, in reference to Georgia’s increasing exports to Russia.

"We, of course, respect the right of any nation to choose its way and perspectives of joining this or that international format,” Lukashevich said. But then he also added in this particular context it was "very important” to understand consequences of the upcoming signing of the AA and where this would lead.

"It concerns both our bilateral [Russian-Georgian] relations and financial-economic consequences, which we will have to elaborate by taking into account Georgia’s joining the EU,” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

In response, Georgia’s Foreign Minister said after signing the AA, Georgia would still manage to have relations with other countries "just like other EU countries manage to have trading relations with the rest of the world”.

Trading relations

Yesterday Lukashevich also pointed out Russia had recently become Georgia’s third largest trading partner and suggested this was indicative of an important trend.

"While taking any steps, a state has to calculate not only the benefits which may be gained through interaction with any international organization, but also think about the steps which other countries having bilateral agreements with this state will have to take,” Lukashevich said.

Georgia’s State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Alexi Petriashvili said trade relations with Russia could be reviewed once Georgia signed the AA but this process should be accompanied with no "threat” from anyone.

"Bringing Georgian products to the Russian market is not really a humanitarian action or goodwill gesture from Russia,” Petriahsvili said.

He noted no embargo would frighten Georgia as the EU stood by it.


In his statement Lukashevich also said Moscow was "alarmed” by recent remarks made by the Georgian Defense Minister in Washington.

"Some politicians in Georgia aspire to join NATO at any cost without thinking that it may damage security of other states,” the Russian official said.

"In this context we have been alarmed by statements made by Georgian Defense Minister [Irakli Alasania] in Washington, calling for deployment of American or NATO anti- missile systems in Georgia.”

"In this regard questions inevitably arise towards Tbilisi about its real intentions and from whom these systems, if deployed, should protect the Georgian territory,” Lukashevich stated.

On April 30 in Washington, Alasania said in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, NATO allies should deploy "defensive assets” in Georgia. He said air defense and anti-armor capabilities were "something we need to put in Georgia and Russians will understand that you are serious”.

Today, Minister Petriashvili underlined the fact Russia continued to occupy 20 percent of Georgian territory. He said Russian troops stood 40 kilometers away from the Georgian capital and Russian soldiers, "just like Somalian pirates”, used to kidnap Georgian civilians from the Georgian-controlled territory.

"After all this, the Defence Minister is obliged to ask our partners to equip Georgia with defensive capabilities,” Petriahsvili said in response to Lukashevic’s comments.

What the EU says 

Meanwhile, speaking at a joint news conference after meeting Georgia’s Prime Minister in Brussels on May 21, president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso said Moscow had assured them it would not hinder signing of the AA between Georgia and the EU.

The European Commission president stated he and president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, "explicitly” told Russian President Vladimir Putin in January "not to disturb” negotiations and agreements the EU were preparing with Georgia.

Barroso said that Putin "promised” he would not.

"So we expect Russian authorities to fully respect the sovereign right of Georgia to conclude the agreement with the European Union,” Barroso added.

Responding to the same question, PM Garibashvili said: "I am more than confident that we will sign the Association Agreement without any complications, without any problems.”