Georgian envoy: Dialogue with Russia facilitates EU visa liberalisation

Abashidze said he and Karasin would discuss economic, trade and business relations and humanitarian issues., 08 Feb 2017 - 12:37, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Georgian Prime Minister’s special representative for relations with Russia says that if it were not for the Abashidze-Karasin meeting format, visa-free travel to the European Union for Georgian citizens would have been much longer in the coming.

Georgia’s special envoy to Russia Zurab Abashidze met Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin in Prague yesterday.

The Abashidze-Karasin format is the only form of direct negotiations between Georgia and Russia since the two states cut off their diplomatic ties following the Russia-Georgia war of 2008.

The first Abashidze-Karasin meeting took place in 2012, in Geneva. The so-called Abashidze-Karasin talks are limited in scope to economic and other practical issues.

Following yesterday’s meeting, both Abashidze and Karasin praised the meeting format.

Abashidze said that Georgia’s European partners support the Georgia-Russia dialogue and its importance in maintaining stability in the region and preventing military flare-ups.

He further added that it is because of this relative stability that talks on visa-free travel to the European Union for Georgians have progressed so quickly.

"If we didn’t have a dialogue with Russia [and] if we hadn’t minimised risks, we wouldn’t have had such a successful dynamic along the path to visa liberalisation”, Abashidze said.

The two envoys mainly discussed economic and trade relations and stressed that thanks to this format, relations between Georgia and Russia have begun to normalise.

They added that proof of this was the fact that one million Russian tourists visited Georgia and 40,000 Russian visas were issued to Georgian citizens in 2016.

However, Abashidze said that Tbilisi will not consider restoring diplomatic ties with Russia unless ‘something really major’, ‘a watershed moment’ comes about regarding Georgia’s Russian-occupied regions.

"[Until then], this issue [restoring diplomatic relations] will not be considered”, Abashidze said.

Despite the focus of the Abashidze-Karasin on economic issues, at yesterday’s meeting the pair also mentioned the situation across the occupation line, as well as the illegal detention of Georgian citizen Giorgi Giunashvili in breakaway Tskhinvali region and the Gia Tsertsvadze case as well.

However, neither Abashidze nor Karasin revealed the details of this part of the conversation.

The next meeting will take place in two months.