Georgia awaits resumption of flights with Russia soon

Tbilisi, Georgia, has seen a positive signal for the resumption of flights with the Russian Federation, the special representative of the Georgian prime minister for relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze announced to Izvestia, Russia.

As an informed government source told Izvestia, Moscow generally believes that the situation in the state has stabilized. therefore, the ban on flights may soon be lifted. According to Mr. Abashidze, as soon as this happens, Russian tourists will return to this Trans-Caucasian republic. At the same time, Tbilisi advocated continuing the dialogue between the special representatives of the two countries and on many other issues on the bilateral agenda.

Time to take off

The ban on air services with Georgia imposed on July 8 may be lifted soon, a representative of the Russian government told Izvestia. According to him, the situation in Georgia has returned to normal, and the Georgians themselves are aware of the absurdity of the June events, which entailed yet another quarrel between the two states. And now we can conclude that virtually nothing is threatening the Russians.

– The freezing of flights took place purely due to a threat to the security of citizens of the Russian Federation. Now the risks are virtually eliminated. For our part, we see no obstacles for considering the issue of resuming flights,” the source explained.

The Federal Air Transport Agency refused to provide a comment on this topic to Izvestia.

Meanwhile, Tbilisi hopes that the restoration of flights from Russia will happen soon. According to Mr. Abashidze, a positive signal is now coming from both capitals. The meeting between the heads of the Russian and Georgian foreign ministries Sergey Lavrov and David Zalkaliani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly inspires additional optimism. Moreover, these negotiations were the first at such a high level after the conflict in South Ossetia in 2008.

– The Georgian side is in favour of solving the most complicated issues in the relations between Georgia and Russia through dialogue. If Moscow decides to resume flights, we will only welcome this. We consider it extremely important to promote the development of relations between the people of the two countries,” Mr. Abashidze told Izvestia.

The diplomat is sure: despite the break, the Russians still have great interest in Georgia. He recalled that last year the country was visited by about 1.5 million citizens of the Russian Federation and over the past few years their number has steadily increased. Mr. Abashidze assured Izvestia that now travelers from Russia are not in danger in Georgia.

In July only, according to Mr. Bakhtadze, the then Prime Minister of Georgia, the tourism industry lose up to US $ 60 million due to the cessation of direct flights. And, as previously stated to Izvestia, the vice president of the Russian Union of Travel Industry Yuri Barzykin, the flow of travelers from Russia to Georgia decreased by 70%. Now, individual tourists mainly travel by road in this country.

Despite the fact that Moscow and Tbilisi should have good neighbourly relations, and contacts between citizens could contribute to this, it is worthwhile to carefully study the issue of security before launching air links with Georgia, says Leonid Kalashnikov, Chairperson of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots. According to him, this issue should be resolved during political and diplomatic negotiations. He assured Izvestia that flights should be resumed immediately after the risks for travelers from the Russian Federation disappear.

“Russia has always advocated dialogue with Georgia, but the ball is on the Georgian side,” the Russian politician noted.

We need to talk

Despite the fact that the former deputy foreign minister of Russia, Grigory Karasin, who was responsible for the dialogue with Tbilisi, moved to the Federation Council, Georgia still hopes that this negotiation format will continue.

– We are still waiting for information on who will participate in the dialogue in Prague, Czech Republic. Mr. Karasin and I have worked fruitfully since 2012. We managed to do a lot to restore economic and humanitarian ties. We want the format to continue working, and are ready for further meetings,” Mr. Abashidze assured.

The surge of anti-Russian sentiments and protests that broke out in Tbilisi on June 20, 2019 after the visit of the parliamentary delegation from the Russian Federation somewhat froze the process of restoring bilateral relations. But Moscow expects that positive developments in this direction will nevertheless occur.

Earlier it was reported that the decision to remove visa barriers for Georgian citizens actually already lay on the table of the President of Russia. However, the June events forced to wait with a visa-free mode. Mr. Abashidze noted that the removal of barriers to border crossing for Georgians is the prerogative of the Russian side. At the same time, Tbilisi would only welcome such a step. Moscow, however, associates return to this issue with the level of security in Georgia.

Meanwhile, on October 2, Abkhazia lifted the restriction on crossing the state border with Georgia, which was imposed in June after anti-Russian protests in Tbilisi. Such a decision also means that the situation in the country has stabilized, as a whole.

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