Moscow-Tbilisi relations will improve if Russia changes its Caucasus policy - Georgian president

Problems facing Russian-Georgian relations could be resolved easily if Moscow agreed to give up its "territorial claims", Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said.

"Russia ought to give up its imperial ambitions, its territorial claims, and Georgia should rebuild its territorial integrity," he said at the winter session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in Strasbourg.

The head of Russia's delegation to PACE, Alexei Pushkov, for his part, asked the Georgian president to comment on "multiple violations of human rights in his country, including torture of prison inmates."

Answering the question, Saakashvili said that he "welcomes Russia's unwavering and full-scale commitment to human rights."

"Maybe we could learn it from you," the Georgian leader said.

Georgia, however, is performing far better than Russia today in many areas, Saakashvili said.

"I am proud that we have emerged out of the state of illegality and high crime rates, which, according to international experts, have dropped by five times in recent years," he said.

Georgia is in 80th place in the international corruption index, which is better than Russia's ranking, he said.

"As far as the state of the business climate is concerned, we hold the ninth place, which is much higher that Russia's results. Serious economic and GDP growth has also been observed in our country in the past few years," Saakashvili said.

Asked by a United Russia Party parliamentarian, Robert Shlegel, to comment on the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Saakashvili said: "You have one map of Georgia, but my map is different."

Moscow's efforts to encourage different countries to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states "will not change anything", he said.

"I could be the last Georgian leader who speaks the Russian language well. I can quote Pushkin, Brodsky and other great Russian poets. I have a much better command of the Russian language than the current Georgian premier," Saakashvili said.

Regrettably, problems plaguing relations between Tbilisi and Moscow have dented the popularity of Russian language in Georgia, he said.

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