Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 6 Apr.’09 / 15:04
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said Moscow was concerned that “military rhetoric does not quiet down in Tbilisi” and added that “there are serious grounds to suspect that new provocations with use of force are being prepared.”
“It is deplorable that against this background some of Tbilisi’s friends are still engaged in arming Saakashvili’s regime,” he said in an interview with the Russian state newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, published on April 6.
Below is an extract from the interview in which Lavrov speaks about Georgia:
“We have no illusions in respect of Mikheil Saakashvili. For a long time, practically throughout his presidency we tried to establish normal cooperation with Georgia. Under Vladimir Putin’s instruction I traveled to Tbilisi in early 2005. As a result of the negotiations with Saakashvili and [then] Foreign Minister [Salome Zourabichvili], a decision was made about speeding up withdrawal of two Russian military bases from Georgia. At the same time, Saakashvili agreed on a package of agreements: we pull out the bases (and we have withdrawn the bases even earlier, than it was scheduled), create a joint Russian-Georgian anti-terrorism center that would have demonstrated our readiness for cooperation in the sphere of security, while Georgia would have adopted a law banning forever stationing of foreign bases on its soil.
We have fulfilled the agreement on our part. Mikheil Saakashvili did not fulfill anything. There were only humble contacts about creating the anti-terrorism center, which were later suspended by the Georgian side. This person’s [reference to President Saakashvili] incapability to negotiate was demonstrated already then.
As far as the August events are concerned, there is no lack of facts, plenty of which have been submitted by the Russian side, the general staff of the Russian armed forces, western experts and journalists. Everything is published and well-known.
Upon the initiative of the European Union, a commission on probing into these facts has been set up. We are cooperating with it. Simultaneously, we want that all those, who more or less were connected with the August events, cooperate with this commission, to ensure that the commission is really engaged in revealing the role of those states, which were arming Georgia, look at what kind of armament and through which channels this armament was supplied; whether they were supplied only through legitimate or secret channels as well; at what prices; how all these comply with those codes, which were adopted by the European Union and OSCE envisaging the prohibition of offensive arms supplies to the conflict zones.
Before August 8 there were two conflict zones on the territory of Georgia, which were recognized as such by the decisions of UN and OSCE. Moreover, everybody was ready to settle these conflicts in frames of respecting Georgia’s territorial integrity. By the way, President Medvedev told Saakashvili about it during their meeting in St. Petersburg on June 6 . As a result of that meeting, they agreed to move ahead towards the resolution. In particular, they agreed that Tbilisi would sign agreements with Tskhinvali and Sokhumi on non-use of force.
All these issues were discussed, but in mid-July the Georgian side demonstrated its incapability to negotiate and simply stopped to answer to our appeals. Then South Ossetia was attacked. Number and quality of armament used by Georgia confirm that it was not a police operation, but it was a real military operation, which took a shape of an aggression.
We are concerned about the fact that military rhetoric does not quiet down in Tbilisi. There are serious grounds to suspect that new provocations with use of force are being prepared. It is deplorable that against this background some of Tbilisi’s friends are still engaged in arming Saakashvili’s regime.”