A possible future meeting between Georgian and Russian leaders, bilateral trade and a new initiative to begin direct flights between Tbilisi and Moscow emerged from a meeting between special representatives of Georgia and Russia in Prague today.
Georgia's special envoy to Russia Zurab Abashidze and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gregory Karasin met in Prague today for the first time since Georgia signed its Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union (EU).
The main focus of the meeting surrounded Georgia’s signing of the AA and how this could affect or enhance relations with Russia, but the envoys also agreed direct flights between Tbilisi and Russia will be launched on September 15.
After the meeting, Karasin said Moscow still had unanswered questions about Georgia’s EU association deal and said the parties should continue discussions about this issue.
He added Moscow was now waiting for all of the needed procedures to end and then analyse what kind of impact the AA could have on Russia-Georgia trade relations.
"It will have some kind of effect for sure,” Karasin said.
"We should analyse it in order to avoid negative surprises. If suddenly it turns out the effect is very bad, this will be negatively understood by our society and our businessmen.”
Along with trade relations, the sides discussed humanitarian issues as well. Karasin said Russia was interested in launching Tbilisi-Moscow direct flights as well as between other cities in the future.
The Russian Deputy Minister commented on the May 17 Dariali landslide in northern Georgia, to which the Russian side offered support to Georgian rescue groups at the scene.
"When the Georgian side needed help proper Georgian and Russian agencies had very good communication. It will be good if this experience is shared by other agencies as well,” Karasin said.
The Georgian and Russian envoys also discussed the long-awaited verdict by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, released on July 3, stating Russia’s 2006 policy of arresting, detaining and expelling large numbers of Georgian nationals from Russia was unlawful and violated the Euro Convention.
Today, when speaking about this decision, Karasin said it could not be considered as a political victory from the Georgian side.
"The Court did not conclude that it was ethnic discrimination of Georgians. This was about some administrative violations and the process is still ongoing,” he said.
After the verdict was announced, the Strasbourg Court invited both parties to submit their observations on the matter and notify the Court of any compensation agreement they may reach within 12 months.
Meanwhile Abashidze and Karasin said it was possible high level meetings would take place between Georgian and Russian leaders in the future. Both parties said they did not oppose this idea however this kind of meeting would need "very long preparation”.
After the meeting, Karasin was asked about possible restoration of the Georgia-Russia diplomatic relations, which was cut off after the 2008 war. In response, he said: "This is Tbilisi’s sovereign right. If the Georgian Government makes this decision, I do not think we will refuse it.”
He added: "We did not cut off these relations. Georgia did. So the decision about its restoration is not only up to us.”
Abashidze and Karasin will meet again in October.
The diplomats first met near Geneva in December 2012. Four similar meetings took place in Prague last year, with the latest meeting being held in April. This is the first direct dialogue between the two countries’ official representatives since 2008.