TBILISI: Georgia’s Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili (pictured) yesterday expressed optimism about restoring ties with arch-foe Russia while pledging to keep up the ex-Soviet state’s pro-Western course.
At a press conference convened to sum up his 100 days in power since the surprise win in October parliamentary polls of his Georgian Dream coalition, Ivanishvili said: “Europe is what Georgia belongs to.”
He said he hoped that “within 20 years Georgia will be a fully-fledged member of Europe.”
“Europe will remain our beacon and we should make our European dream come true.”
In terms of security and defence, “there is no alternative to Nato” membership, he added.
But he also said he was “optimistic” about restoring ties with Russia, severed following the 2008 war the two neighbours fought over Georgia’s breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
“I am optimistic. With careful and measured actions” ties can be restored, he said, adding that a first step would be to renew trade links. “Huge results need more time,” he said.
“Russians as well as Georgians want our relationships be restored,” he said.
Ivanishvili — a tycoon who bitterly opposes the anti-Russian rhetoric of President Mikheil Saakashvili — says he is ready to engage Moscow in direct negotiations, vowing however to continue Saakashvili’s bid to join Nato and the European Union.
A darling of the West, Saakashvili has long accused Ivanishvili — who made his multi-billion fortune in Russia — of being a Russian stooge. AFP