Monday, September 8, 2008

Franco Frattini visits Georgia

On 3 September 2008 Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Italy Franco Frattini paid a visit to Georgia.

The Italian Foreign Minister met with his Georgian counterpart, Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili, Prime Minister Vladimer Gurgenidze, Minister of Refugees and Accommodation Tamar Martiashvili and President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili.

Mr. Frattini reaffirmed Italy’s support for the territorial integrity of Georgia and emphasized that Italy was one of the first countries to render Georgia humanitarian assistance and remains committed to further assist Georgia in case of necessity.

The Italian Foreign Minister focused on the decisions adopted by the leaders of the EU member states in Brussels and confirmed that 27 countries of Europe were unanimous in recognizing the principle of Georgia’s territorial integrity and the necessity for Russia to comply with the six-point ceasefire agreement.

Following the meeting, Mrs. Tkeshelashvili and Mr. Frattini held a joint press conference.

Transcript of the joint briefing of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Georgia and the Republic of Italy:

Mrs. Eka Tkeshelashvili:

Thank you for your attendance. I had a very interesting meeting with Mr. Frattini and it is very important that this meeting was held shortly after the EU Council adopted its decision. We had a good opportunity to discuss in detail the essence and contents of this decision and share our views on a number of issues.

Of great importance in this context was to outline one fundamental point on which our positions fully coincide - it is our firm expectation from the Russian side to fully comply with the ceasefire agreement. it is an imperative, which both the European Union and Italy have made clear in the aforesaid decision and this message to the Russian Federation is unequivocal, absolutely distinct and reinforced with certain timeline.

On 8 September the European Union will make at the highest level its first assessment of the extent to which Russia complies with the ceasefire agreement that will allow the European Union to determine its further steps with respect to the Russian Federation.

The decision adopted in Brussels was of paramount importance in many respects. First of all, the European Union’s motivation and involvement in the process of Georgia’s reconstruction and economic development was demonstrated very clearly. But even more important was the European Union’s unequivocal support for the Georgian Authorities. Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will be always supported and reinforced by the European Union. Moreover, the European Union sent a clear signal to all other states to adhere to the same principle. The decision adopted in Brussels marks the start of a new process, which is just beginning to come into existence. Such are the general expectations of the European Union and Italy is one of the founders of EU values. Our great thanks for the Italian Government for this support and now let me give the floor to my colleague.

Mr. Franco Frattini:

Thank you very much. It was a great pleasure to be here to have this very fruitful dialogue with my dear college. I wanted to be here after the very important EU Council meeting. I want to stress the importance of walking together towards keeping balance and reaffirming commitment towards helping Georgia and people that are in need here and Italy played its part in this process.

Also, we want to reaffirm the principle of Georgia’s territorial integrity and our good will to cooperate in order to get Georgia closer to European Union. This was very important decision that was taken by European Union unanimously and I would say Italy has playing a positive role.

What is very important is to send a strong message to the Russian Federation. Europe is united; Europe does want six points agreement to be fully implemented. So we want this to be a success before the visit of President Sarcozy on 8 September to Moscow. And I am here to reaffirm Italian commitment to cooperate towards the full implementation of the six-point agreement and implementation of the decision taken by the EU council. Italy is ready to play its part, first to contribute to improving capacity of getting Georgia closer to EU in many areas – visa regime, walking towards a free trade area between EU and Georgia, capacity to attract investments, capacity to reconstruct all areas that are damaged by this August crisis that led to losses of human lives.

Italy is ready to participate in launching a European Monitoring Mission in Georgia. We will ensure that the monitoring mission has an access to all the territory of Georgia, including South Ossetia. We need to remove all checkpoints that contradict the six-point agreement which talks about the patrolling by Russian troops and not establishing permanent checkpoints.

There is also another point of political cooperation between Georgia and EU. We want to offer opportunities not only for economic reconstruction, but to have a political dialogue between EU member states and Georgia. Italy intends to contribute to such discussions with thoughts in perspective of providing the European Commission with further elements to prepare a comprehensive proposal to be put on the table on the sidelines of the European Council by March.

But now we need urgent action and the urgent action is first of to guarantee as soon as possible in few days’ time before the visit of President Sarkozy the full implementation of the six-point agreement including the withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Georgia. You know we have decided to postpone technical negotiations with the Russian Federation until the withdrawal process is completed. We know the Russian Federation has announced this afternoon to have withdrawn troops from Poti area, we will check it.

On a bilateral point of view, I reaffirmed to my colleague the practical and political commitment of the Italian Government to cooperate in terms of humanitarian aid. Italy was the first country to be here on the 17th of August to send humanitarian aid for people who were in need of help. But what is more necessary is to guarantee a political support and we are ready to do exactly so, thank you.