Government officials welcomed the lifting of travel restrictions between the two countries. Foreign Minister Ilya Darchiashvili recalled that “more than a million Georgian citizens live in the Russian Federation”, but they do not lose contact with their relatives back home. According to him, the abolition of visas will facilitate their “daily life”.
Georgia’s Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Mariam Kvrivishvili, spoke in the same way. She noted that the decision to lift the ban on flights by Russian airlines will “significantly contribute” to their trips to Georgia, facilitate their bonding with family members.
Almost the same words came from the mouth of the chairman of the ruling party “Georgian Dream” Irakli Kobakhidze. He drew attention to the fact that currently one has to travel through third countries, which “increases costs, creates discomfort”. The politician stressed that the introduction of the visa regime in 2019 and its abolition now are Moscow’s decisions, and Tbilisi “cannot have any position on this issue.” “We are pursuing a pragmatic policy, and the expression of this policy is the decision that was taken in favor of our citizens,” Kobakhidze said.
“Introducing and lifting these sanctions is Russia’s decision, we cannot have any influence on that,” said Shalva Papuashvili, Speaker of Parliament.
However, there were also those who were unhappy. A small gathering of opponents of innovations – representatives of the opposition – took place in Tbilisi. But something else is remarkable. Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has spoken out against visa-free travel to Russia. She even called the abolition of visas a provocation. “The restoration of direct flights with Georgia and the abolition of the visa regime are unacceptable” until the end of the Ukrainian conflict, she declared. However, such statements on his part are understandable, considering his past. Zurabishvili was born in France and worked for a long time in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Fifth Republic, she even served as French ambassador to Georgia, which she heads today. And it is not surprising that she supports the line taken in the West towards Russia.
In addition, Zurabishvili called on the government to convene a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the issue of introducing a three-month visa regime for citizens of the Russian Federation and allowing their professional activity.
However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has already criticized such an initiative. As Darchiashvili said, he considers it unnecessary to convene the Republic Security Council. According to him, there is no reason for this.
As for the resumption of direct flights, this point is still in question. Although Georgia has not imposed sanctions on Russia, regardless of how Tbilisi convinced the West, according to Kvrivishvili, clearance can only be granted to carriers that do not fall under Western restrictions. “All the airlines which will not be under sanctions will be able to operate direct flights”, underlined bluntly the Deputy Minister of the Economy.
It should be noted that the United States has already threatened Georgia with sanctions if air communication with Russia resumes, the companies that will serve Russian planes could be subject to restrictions. “If direct flights between Russia and Georgia resume, it will raise our concern about the possible imposition of sanctions against Georgian airlines that fly aircraft under import and export control,” the State Department said. .
Political analyst Petre Mamradze told Sputnik Georgia that the vast majority of Georgian citizens are happy with Moscow’s decisions. “We all know very well what situation the Georgians were in, how the families who had to cross third countries suffered. It was agony,” he said.
Expert Demur Giorkhelidze urged not to overestimate the abolition of the visa regime and the restoration of direct flights. He stressed that these decisions will make life easier for travelers, but will not affect relations between Moscow and Tbilisi.
But expert Soso Archvadze, on the contrary, believes that it will improve economic ties between the two countries.
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