Address by President Saakashvili at the Foreign Ministry


I would like to welcome you all. This is a very important day for us and therefore I thought it right to come here specially to meet staff from the defence and foreign ministries. This is an historic act. It is one of the greatest victories of our constructive diplomacy. Last year when we began discussing the withdrawal of the bases many people thought it unrealistic. Last year when I refused to go to Moscow until this issue had been resolved, many people thought it was too harsh a response and some even saw it as an act of provocation. However, last year we managed together with President Putin to reach an agreement on political principles which was then concluded by our foreign ministers. But this document, which the defence minister gave me today, signed by our defence ministry and Russian military officials, is the most important one.

I should also say here that we believe that the military bases are a relic of imperialism in Georgia. They have no place in a constructive relationship between Georgia and Russia. We want a constructive relationship with Russia, we want a good, neighbourly relationship with Russia and we have taken many steps towards achieving that.

Last year when Gela Bezhuashvili was appointed foreign minister, I gave him two main tasks. The first was concluding this agreement on the withdrawal of the bases. We have now concluded it as a legal document, an agreement which has more binding force than political principles. The task second was to speed up the process of Euro-Atlantic integration. We have already achieved a lot in that area too and we are expecting further successful progress from you.

The third task I gave him was to overcome, though constructive dialogue, what is effectively an economic embargo imposed on Georgian produce by certain sections of the Russian authorities. We want to take this to the highest political level. This is not a technical issue. This is about the most fundamental cultural, human ties between Russian and Georgia, not just economic ties.

As for the withdrawal of the bases, the resolution of this issue clearly shows that with persistent diplomatic work it is easily possible to resolve these issues. This is one of the most difficult issues we have had to work on. There is no issue that cannot be resolved through dialogue and negotiation.

At the same time, Georgia has principles and I would like you diplomats - this refers more to diplomats although you are also soldiers of our country, as we all are, just as the Defence Ministry.

There is a very serious force, a huge amount of money and very intensive work directed against Georgia. This is a daily battle for the very existence of our country and our integration with Europe. Under this huge pressure we should bring our country to safety, just as they did in the Baltic states and Eastern Europe. Georgia will do that too if we work together. This agreement is the first serious step forward.

I want us to understand that Georgia is rather like Amirani [the Georgian Prometheus] chained to the mountain and should be freed from its chains. We resolve issues, we begin to shake off chains, we tackle corruption, then other chains, territorial problems and bases. We resolve one issue and then another comes along, in the form of a wine embargo and energy problems. The blacksmith always comes, trying to restrain us and force us back to where he thinks we belong, bound, enslaved, in submission.

Georgia will certainly be freed from all the chains restricting its development and the chains holding it back from a final return to Europe and its final integration into the house of Europe.

I think that this agreement is a serious step forward. We will also resolve other issues, with our hard work, we will cast off other chains and we will continue on our way towards a much better future.

I would like to thank the defence and foreign ministers and also you, the staff, because this really is a different ministry from what it was in previous decades. There is a different motivation, you are different people with different aims and with a completely different country standing behind you.

Thank you.

This translation is published with permission from BBC Monitoring, Reading UK