Turnava: Flights with Russia May Resume in November

Georgia’s Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Natia Turnava, noted that direct flights between Georgia and Russia, suspended on July 8, 2019, may well resume this November.

The Minister made the comment after the foreign ministers of the two countries had a meeting in New York on September 26, at the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Turnava said that November was named as the month when the suspended air traffic might be restored between Georgia and Russia.

"The first positive information that came was that direct air traffic between Georgia and Russia could be resumed this autumn. I have huge expectations that this will happen, because we already see the prerequisites for it,” she said, noting that the June 20-21 developments in Georgia, namely rallies and unrest in the capital that followed Russian lawmakers’ visit to the country’s parliament, had had a large-scale negative impact on the economy.

“We have many times said that the Russian sanctions that followed the June developments brought much damage to Georgia. We hope for positive steps in this direction,” Turnava said, highlighting the GDP which fell by 0.8% and the economy which saw at least a $300 million loss.

“Lifting these sanctions will be a positive step that will have a positive impact on expectations, on air traffic, and we expect the negative impact of the tourism sanctions on Georgia to soon be neutralized,” Turnava said.

She also mentioned that Georgia is expanding its air traffic area by adding new destinations.

“More people will come to Georgia if their travel costs are lower and there are more flights to choose from,” she said, and underlined that the next important step, both politically and commercially, is direct traffic with the US, noting that Georgia has already made very promising moves in that direction.

“Flights with the US seem quite likely as we have received promising answers. While in the US, I met with the representatives of Delta and United Airlines. The dialogue has begun but it will take time,” Turnava said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his Georgian counterpart asked him about the resumption of direct flights between Russia and Georgia during their meeting.

He said that Moscow made a decision to suspend flights with Georgia in response to an “embarrassing” move by the Georgian opposition during the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy hosted by the Parliament of Georgia on June 20, when Russian lawmakers were visiting Georgia.

"When we made this decision, it was announced that this is a temporary measure and that we would lift it once the situation was back to normal: when the Georgian leadership realizes the need to quell such incidents," Lavrov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on June 21, which imposed a temporary ban on passenger flights to Georgia from July 8 for the “safety of Russian citizens.” The ban took effect on July 8 which sharply reduced the number of Russian tourists coming to Georgia and affected the economy, as Russian visitors amount to 70% of Georgia’s tourism market.

In addition, Dmitry Peskov, Spokesperson of the President of Russia, expressed hope on the behalf of Official Moscow about the launch of all the necessary preconditions for lifting the flight ban on Georgia.

“Air traffic has been suspended and not canceled forever. Thus, we hope that all the necessary preconditions will be set out in due time for the resumption of flights,” he stated.

By Thea Morrison

Image source: reginfo.ge

30 September 2019 15:50