Russian official: No plans to pressure Georgia

The parties agreed to continue this dialogue on a regular basis. Photo by AP, 16 Apr 2014 - 19:56, Tbilisi,Georgia

Russia will not put any kind of pressure on Georgia as the country prepares to sign the Association Agreement (AA) with EU, said Georgia’s special envoy to Russia after meeting a Russian representative in Prague today.

Georgia’s envoy Zurab Abashidze said he listened to a "simple announcement” from Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, who said Russia had no plans to put any kind of pressure on Georgia as the country prepares to sign the AA with the European Union.

"The topic of the Association Agreement was raised for discussion by Karasin and he said very definitely that Russia was not planning to put any kind of pressure on Georgia,” Abashidze said to Georgian journalists.

"I consider [this] a very interesting announcement. June is not far from now and we have to observe the development of the situation.”

Moreover, Abashidze said during the meeting with Karasin, the Russian diplomat announced that Russian troops had finished erecting barbed wire fences to mark the so-called boundary between Georgian and Ossetian territory.

Karasin did not speak about these two points with journalists and only commented about Russia’s detaining of three Georgian journalists in reference to Georgia-Russia humanitarian and economic relations.

After the talk, which lasted for almost three hours, the Russian envoy said he was confident about boosting trade between Georgia and Russia.

"The trade turnover has increased by 50 percent since 2013 and the export increased twice from Georgia. As well, Russia issued more than 22000 visas, which is significantly much more in comparison to past years,” Karasin said.

This is the first kind of direct dialogue between Georgia and Russia on topics including trade, economy and humanitarian issues since talks launched in December 2012 – specifically the first of its kind since the August 2008 war.

Meanwhile the Georgian envoy said he and Karasin also discussed a possible meeting between Georgian and Russian high officials but noted that this issue was not on the official agenda.

"It is essential to organize serious preparation works for highlighting all the issues that would be discussed during this kind of meeting,” Abashidze said.

The two diplomats also spoke about developments in Ukraine.

Abashidze said that his Russian counterpart laid out Moscow’s position over developments in Ukraine and he reaffirmed Georgia’s "principled position” that it "supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and its European choice.”

Due to this illegal act like erecting the barbed wire fences Georgian pilgrims lost the possibility to visit the St George Church – a historical place of worship – which is located in the Zeda Adzvi village in Georgia’s uncontrolled territory.

Abashidze said after the talks that he was told the locals will have unhindered access to the church for this upcoming Easter holiday.

Senior Georgian Orthodox clerics have called on Abashidze to raise this issue during his meeting with Karasin.

The parties agreed to continue this dialogue on a regular basis, with another meeting due to be held in July.

Georgia and Russia broke off diplomatic relations after the August 2008 war. Since then the two countries have mainly communicated with each other through Swiss diplomats, who have acted as mediators on a number of occasions between Tbilisi and Moscow.