Georgian PM’s special representative for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, met Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, in Prague on October 19 as part of informal direct bilateral dialogue launched between the two countries in late 2012.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a press release after the meeting that the Georgian and Russian diplomats “reaffirmed readiness to continue pragmatic course towards further gradual normalization of bilateral relations.”
“It was noted that after the recent parliamentary elections in Russia and Georgia, the both countries are interested in continuation of a dialogue on specific issues to intensify Russian-Georgian relations in those areas, where progress is possible in the condition of absence of diplomatic ties – trade, transport, culture and humanitarian areas,” it said.
“Results achieved over the past four years in normalization of bilateral [relations] inspire optimism,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said and noted increase in bilateral trade turnover, increase in number of Russian tourists visiting Georgia, and “successful development of practical interaction between the transport authorities” of the two countries.
It also said that a meeting of Russian and Georgian businesspeople would be held in Tbilisi in November, organized by chambers of trade and commerce of the two countries.
“Working on liberalisation of visa requirements for the Georgian citizens will continue,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said and added that the Russian government was considering “easing” visa rules for Georgian airline crew members.
Georgian PM’s office said in a press release on October 20 that the Georgian diplomat “made emphasis on gross violation of human rights in occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region [South Ossetia] and on difficult situation along the occupation line.”
“Special importance of the Geneva talks [launched after the August, 2008 war] was stressed in this context as the major format for discussion of security and humanitarian issues existing between Georgia and Russia,” the Georgian PM’s office said.
It said that main issues on the agenda of the Prague format were discussed, related to “prospects for deepening” trade, economic, transport and humanitarian ties.
The Georgian PM’s office also said that during the meeting Abashidze reiterated once again to his Russian interlocutor that Tbilisi finalized work on all the documents envisaged by 2011 WTO deal between the two countries on customs monitoring.
Georgia agreed to give its go-ahead to Russia’s WTO membership only after Tbilisi and Moscow signed a Swiss-mediated agreement in November, 2011, envisaging putting in place sophisticated systems for tracking and auditing of cargo passing through breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The deal has not yet been implemented and the issue was not mentioned in the Russian Foreign Ministry’s press release on the meeting in Prague.
Issue of Georgian citizens serving prison terms in Russia for spying was also discussed, according to the Georgian PM’s office. Seven Georgians, serving prison terms in Russia on spying charges, were handed over by Russia to Tbilisi since 2014.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the next meeting between Abashidze and Karasin is expected in the beginning of 2017.