In an interview to the Deutsche Welle's Russian service, published on 2 July, Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili confirmed that he plans to leave politics after the presidential elections in October 2013 and that is why he will not run for president. He said he will continue to work on strengthening civil society.
According to Ivanishvili, even though the population in regions does not know the Georgian Dream's presidential candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili well, the coalition has high ratings and its candidate will necessarily win. Margvelashvili "has all the qualities" to become a good president, the prime minister noted. Asked about Secretary General of the United National Movement Vano Merabishvili, who before his arrest was a possible presidential candidate from the opposition party, Bidzina Ivanishvili said that he does not consider the UNM a serious competitor. "It is wrong then to say, that we would go ahead and arrest our opposition," he said and added that he will not allow political repression and selective justice.
Answering the question about improving relations with Russia, Ivanishvili said "some positive changes are already taking place. Economic relations have practically recovered. We are working on resuming regular flights between Moscow and Tbilisi. There are ongoing negotiations on visa facilitation and even the abolition of visas."
At the same time, the Georgian prime minister noted that problems still remain and cited the installation of barbed wire fence along the occupation line with the Tskhinvali region and arrest of local residents at the administrative borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russian military as examples. "We seek answers to these questions. I do not think that this is done in a centralized manner by the Kremlin," Ivanishvili said
Nevertheless, the prime minister deems the first stage of normalizing relations with Russia as successful and sees prospects of further normalization. To a question as to whether diplomatic relations can be restored before the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Ivanishvili replied that needs "time and the right conditions." He said one year left before the Olympic Games is too short a period for diplomatic relations to be restored. However, he added, in future the diplomatic ties will be definitely restored.
As regards the restoration of territorial integrity of Georgia, Ivanishvili believes that "Abkhazia and South Ossetia have to decide for themselves whilst we [Georgia] have to build a country that would be appealing to Abkhazians and South Ossetians. We shouldn't fight over land, but for the people. They should feel a desire to live amongst us. There is no other way except cordial relations and further negotiations."
Georgian prime minister thinks that "the existence of separatist regions does not play into the hands of Russia either." "In his interview Putin even declared that he can hardly imagine how he can revoke the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Of course it is difficult [for Putin] to revoke that, especially considering that Russia has good relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Behind Putin's statement one can, however, read the following: the people must decide themselves and if they decide that they want to live with Georgians, Russia will find it easier to revoke its recognition [of independence Abkahzia and South Ossetia]," Ivanishvili said.
In regards with NATO, Ivanishvili said Georgia will manage to reconcile its aspirations towards NATO membership and good relations with Russia. He put the blame of irritating Russia about Georgia joining NATO on the former government.