Georgia-Russia to “move forward” in implementation of the agreement on customs monitoring

If implemented the neutral customs monitoring should cover three trade corridors including the border crossing points at the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Photo: Kakha Mchedlidze/RFE/RL, 24 May 2018 - 23:49, Tbilisi,Georgia

The meeting between Georgian PM’s special representative and Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia in Prague has resulted in an agreement to ‘move forward’ in terms of implementing the 2011 agreement on neutral monitoring of customs.

The agreement signed by Georgia and Russia in 2011 envisages the setting up of a mechanism of customs administration and the monitoring of regional trade by third parties. 

After the previous Abashidze-Karasin meeting, which is the only format of direct dialogue between Georgia and Russia since the two countries cut off their diplomatic ties after the 2008 war, the  parties signed contract with Swiss company SGS to carry out the customs monitoring activities for both countries. 

"Today we have taken an important decision to continue moving forward. We are interested in the implementation of the 2011 agreement,” Karasin said after the meeting adding that this would need several months since a trilateral commision will be created to plan the customs monitoring process in details.

Despite the fact that it was not on the agenda of the meeting, Zurab Abashidze touched on the issue of the responsibility for death of the Georgian citizen Archil Tatunashvili who died in South Ossetia occupied by Russia in February.

"This is a tragedy and everything needs to be done to prevent such incidents in the future,” Karasin answered the issue raised by the Georgian envoy adding that such kind of issues should be discussed through the  Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism.

"I made it clear that Georgia would use any existing mechanism to hold those responsible accounted. Nobody should have an illusion that we will not reach our goal,” Zurab Abashidze told journalists after the meeting. 

Being asked about the possibility of a meeting between the Russian and Georgian presidents Karasin answered this would need "serious preparations including a careful consideration of the solutions for several important political and economic issues between the two countries.”

"We with Mr. Abashidze are holding regular meetings in Prague to gradually move forward in terms of development of Georgia-Russia relations while at the same time prepare the meeting of the two countries’ leaders in the future,” Karasin said.

The so-called Abashidze-Karasin meetings format was launched in late 2012 and covers only humanitarian, trade and economic issues. In its essence, the format does not touch upon politics. Political issues are mainly in focus of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism meetings where international negotiators facilitate talks between Georgia, Russia and the de-facto leadership of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region, the two Georgian regions that are currently occupied by Russia.