MUNICH, February 2 (RIA Novosti) – The ongoing occupation of Georgian territory by Russia is an impediment to full-fledged diplomatic ties between the two countries, as well as a threat to national and European security, Georgian Foreign Minister Maya Pandzhikidze said on Saturday.
Improvement of relations with Russia is a key priority of Georgia’s new government, she told a security conference in Munich, adding, however, that full reconciliation is impossible without resolving the “occupation” issue.
“We have made concrete steps. For example, we have established direct communication links with Russia. However, these steps will not substitute for the main negotiating process within the framework of the Geneva Conference,” she said.
“It needs to be understood that we will not be able to achieve full conciliation, full restoration of diplomatic relations if a part of Georgia remains occupied by Russian troops.”
“Maintenance of the status quo, i.e., the occupation of 20 percent of our country’s territory by Russia, is a serious threat to the security of Georgia, as well as European security,” Pandzhikidze said.
She reiterated the Georgian government’s commitment to expanding its cooperation with NATO and the EU.
Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia after their August 2008 war over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia lost one-fifth of its territory after the two republics broke away.
Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose Georgian Dream coalition won the October parliamentary election, said in November that Tbilisi is restarting its ties with Moscow “from a clean slate” but that restoration of diplomatic relations will be linked to the issue of Georgia’s territorial integrity.
Moscow, however, keeps ruling out any negotiations on the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia recognized as independent states.