Georgia says it will be “a bridge connecting the North Caucasus with the civilized world”.
Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, said on October 15, that Georgia’s decision to introduce 90-day visa free entry for the Russian citizens residing in the North Caucasus “is deriving from the humanitarian needs of this population” and also is Tbilisi’s attempt to challenge Moscow’s anti-Georgian propaganda.
“They [the residents of North Caucasus] are in the position when the Kremlin regime is dictating to them where to go, what to do, how to act, with whom to be friends and with whom not to be friends; they [the Russian authorities] are trying to make propaganda image of Georgia as a failed state, as a state where nothing is going on and as a state, which is constantly threatening neighbors,” Vashadze said.
“So when we are opening borders, we want these people to come to Georgia and to see themselves what our achievements are,” he said while responding a question asked during his joint news conference with visiting Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mamedyarov.
“Second – we have ethnic Georgians residing, for example in Vladikavkaz [Russia’s North Ossetian Republic]; we have 100,000 Georgian citizens of Ossetian origin residing in Georgia and they have relatives in the North Caucasus, of course they need to see each other,” Vashadze said.
“The third point – nobody [in North Caucasus] can afford sending their children to Moscow institutes and universities and here [in Georgia] we have world-class, European-class universities, why not to send them to Georgia? We have been receiving letters from the North Caucasus residents asking the question how they can send their kids to the Georgian universities,” he said and added that these arguments were “quite enough” in favor of Tbilisi’s decision.
Responding to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks that decision of this kind should be taken based on bilateral agreements and not unilaterally, Vashadze said that when Russia “unilaterally introduced visa regime for the Georgian citizens, we have not been consulted.”
“So never ask for something, which you are not ready to provide,” Vashadze added.
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Russia introduced visa rules with Georgia in December, 2000; the decision, however, did not apply to residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which at the time were formally recognized by Moscow as part of Georgia.
In December, 2003, Russia unilaterally simplified visa rules for only residents of Georgia’s Adjara Autonomous Republic, a move described by Moscow at the time as “a temporary measure,” which triggered protest in Tbilisi.
In a written statement released on October 12, the Georgian Interior Ministry said that the visa-free entry decision aimed “at supporting the restoration of traditional brotherly relations between Georgian and North Caucasian peoples.”
It also said that by this decision the residents of the North Caucasus would be able “to take advantage of all the benefits that Georgian citizens and visitors of our country enjoy in the result of the reforms and the achievements accomplished in recent years.”
“The residents of the North Caucasus will have the opportunity to travel to Georgia, to do business, to receive education, to rest and to enjoy all the privileges, which they lack under the corrupted and repressive federal regime in their home country. Georgia will be a bridge connecting the North Caucasus with the civilized world,” the Georgian Interior Ministry said.
The Georgian Times