"We are aware of the statement issued today by the Russian Federation regarding the possible annulment of visa requirements for Georgian nationals. I believe it is a step in the right direction,” said Georgia's Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili.
His comments were made shortly after Russia's President Vladimir Putin made his annual news conference in Moscow.
The Georgian PM also raised awareness that the Georgian Government annulled visas for Russian citizens as early as 2011. "This year, we extended their authorized period of stay, in the interest of attracting more Russian tourists and promoting people-to-people contacts,” stressed Garibashvili.
Equally important are the interests of our many compatriots living in Russia - business people and other citizens – who have a stake in simplified visa procedures. For them it is important to see as many obstacles as possible removed regarding travel between the two countries,” said Garibashvili in a statement today.
Today Putin was asked by a reporter from Georgia's Maestro TV about the further developments of Russia-Georgia relations, to which the Russian leader said: "Yes, we think we are ready to cancel the visa regime with Georgia."
Later this news was published on the official Twitter account of the Russian President as one of the highlights of today’s news conference:
On #Georgia: We did not initiate a rift in relations with Georgia but we are ready for cooperation. Visa waiver is possible— President of Russia (@KremlinRussia_E) December 17, 2015
Putin also commented on future prospects of Georgia-Russia relations.
"We were not the initiators of the collapse, but we are ready to restore the relations. As for Georgia’s territorial integrity – this is the subject to decide by Georgian, South Ossetian and Abkhazian people. The work with them is needed, we will accept any kind of decision,” stated Putin.
Meanwhile Georgia’s Prime Minister emphasized in his statement that Georgia was ready "to continue pragmatic policy toward Russia, and we expect Russia to reciprocate”.
Despite the substantial disagreements between Georgia and Russia – including the reasons and outcomes of the 2008 war – in the past three years we have taken notable steps towards each other in the fields of the trade, transport, and humanitarian relief. We are ready to continue our pragmatic policy toward Russia, and we expect Russia to reciprocate,” reads Garibashvili’s statement.
The Georgian Prime Minister also predicted the estimated decision of the European Commission on visa free travel to the Schengen zone for Georgian citizens as a "historic event”.
"Our Government believes Georgian citizens should benefit from visa-free travel throughout the world. The Georgian Government’s prudent foreign policy brings tangible results, and this approach is understood and welcomed both by our citizens and our Western partners,” said the statement of Georgian leader.