Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on December 20 that “legal issues”, particularly referring to absence of diplomatic ties with Georgia, have to be addressed before removing visa requirements for the Georgian citizens.
Lavrov said on December 18 that although issuing of Russian visas to the Georgian citizens was “liberalized”, Moscow “is not yet ready to lift visa regime.”
But next day, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said during his annual press conference that “we might well go towards returning to the visa-free regime” with Georgia. Putin’s remarks were welcomed in Tbilisi. Georgia has unilateral visa-free regime with Russia.
Speaking on the issue in an interview with Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency on December 20, Lavrov said: “We would like to remove all the obstacles in the relations between our citizens. This is our principled position with respect to any country. We are in favor of removing of all the barriers and obstacles.”
“But certain basic, legal issues have to be defined for that to happen,” he continued. “From legal point of view, we do not have diplomatic relations [with Georgia]. From legal point of view, Georgia still considers Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be its territories. These issues inevitably arise when it comes to putting certain agreements on paper. Therefore, legal experts will look into this situation, but our previous attempts have run into those issues I have just mentioned.”
Asked when consultations on visa issues may start, Lavrov responded that Moscow and Tbilisi are in an informal dialogue through regular meetings between Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and Georgian PM’s special envoy for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze. Lavrov said that the two diplomats are discussing various issues “that can be resolved for the purpose of developing our relations.” “Let’s see,” he added.