- Title: GEORGIA: EU appeals to Russia to lift sanctions against Georgia
- Date: 3rd October 2006
- Summary: (W3) TBILISI, GEORGIA (OCTOBER 3, 2006) (REUTERS) VIEW OF AIRPORT/ RAINY DAY INTERIOR OF AIRPORT FLIGHT INFORMATION BOARD WITH FLIGHTS TO RUSSIA CANCELLED PEOPLE WAITING
- Embargoed: 18th October 2006 13:47
- Location: Georgia
- Country: Georgia
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA1BKDCDS8UG0KDJSLBH9MJPG5P
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: The European Union called on Russia on Tuesday (October 3) to lift economic sanctions on Georgia or risk deepening the crisis between the ex-Soviet neighbours sparked by a spying row.
Russia cut rail, air, sea and postal links to Georgia in response to the arrest in Tbilisi last week of four Russian soldiers on spying charges. Georgia released the four on Monday (October 2) in what it termed a goodwill gesture.
Flights and trains from Moscow to Tbilisi were cancelled early on Tuesday as the measures began to bite. Flights and ferry services were also suspended from the port of Batumi, on Georgia's Black Sea coast.
"We do hope that Russia very, very soon lifts these sanctions because sanctions do not, particularly in this case, lead anywhere," EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told Reuters in an interview.
Ferrero-Waldner, in Tbilisi for a visit that was arranged before the latest dispute broke out, appealed for restraint.
"It is very important for both sides to be ready for a dialogue and also to show the greatest restraint," she said.
"Only by restraint in words but then also in deeds is it possible to come back to a normal situation. This is our message to both sides."
But, Moscow has so far ignored Western appeals for it to reciprocate to defuse the tension and a Kremlin spokesman said on Tuesday that the measures would "continue for a while".
The Russian parliament is due this week to debate a draft law that would allow officials to ban cross-border money transfers, which could be a huge blow for Georgia's economy.
Almost a sixth of Georgia's national income comes from cash sent home by relatives working in Russia, who number about one million, according to central bank estimates.
It was unclear though if any new Russian regulations could stop money being sent via third countries.
Georgia's economy minister said on Tuesday he expected the impact of the Russian sanctions to be negligible on the country's economy.
Economic Development Minister Irakly Chogovadze told Reuters the practical impact of the Russian measures on Georgia's economy would be "close to zero".
"The direct impact will be pretty negligible," he said in his Tbilisi office. "This is an absolutely useless measure as our economy is rather diversified."
Earlier this year Russia imposed a ban on imports of Georgian wine and mineral water, citing health concerns. The two products were among Georgia's main exports although officials say Georgians have found new markets for their products in Central and Eastern Europe.
"In the present context (the Russian measures) are just bites but they are not deadly bites and we will survive," Chogovadze said.
"The population will suffer but the most important thing is that centuries-old relations will suffer and that is very, very bad."
The spy row brought relations between Moscow and Georgia -- which have always been stormy -- to their lowest level for years. Moscow withdrew its ambassador from Georgia and put its military on Georgia's border on heightened alert.
The dispute was a flashpoint for deeper tensions. Georgia is pushing aggressively to join NATO and the European Union. That alarms Russia, which sees the country as part of its sphere of influence.
The United States -- a strong backer of Georgia's pro-Western leadership -- strongly urged Russia and Georgia on Monday to "lower the rhetoric" over the spy row.
Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi nosedived when U.S.-educated lawyer Mikhail Saakashvili came to power in the 2003 "Rose Revolution".
A fiery speaker, he has been outspoken in his criticism of the Kremlin. He has accused Moscow of annexing two Georgian regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where Moscow-backed separatists reject Tbilisi's rule.
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