TBILISI, January 20 (RIA Novosti) – Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II will arrive in Moscow on Sunday on a visit that could create a general background for progress in bilateral relations which have been almost non-existent since the two countries fought a brief war in August 2008.
“I am going to Moscow to discuss issues that are vital for Georgia,” Ilia II said on Saturday after the Epiphany service at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi.
The Georgian Orthodox Church leader is expected to meet with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill and the Russian leadership during his six-day visit.
On Monday, Ilia II will receive an award of the International Fund for the Unity of the Orthodox Peoples in recognition of his contribution to strengthening ties between Orthodox believers and churches around the world.
The Georgian patriarch, who is known to be a strong advocate of normalizing relations with Russia, maintains active ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.
On January 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Ilia II on his 80th birthday and 35th anniversary of enthronement.
“We greatly value your warm attitude toward Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. Your personal efforts…have greatly helped in maintaining the centuries-long ties of friendship and mutual understanding between our peoples during difficult phases of history,” Putin said in his greetings message.
Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia after their August 2008 war over South Ossetia. Georgia lost one-fifth of its territory after South Ossetia and another republic, Abkhazia, broke away.
Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose Georgian Dream coalition won the October 1 parliamentary election, said in November that Tbilisi is restarting its ties with Moscow “from a clean slate” but that restoration of diplomatic relations will be linked to the issue of Georgia’s territorial integrity.
Moscow, however, keeps ruling out any negotiations on the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia recognized as independent states.
Official representatives of Russia and Georgia held a meeting on December 14 in Geneva in a first attempt to launch the reconciliation process.
Updated to correct reference to 2008 war.