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Georgian diplomat says Tbilisi ready to welcome Moscow’s steps to ease visa restrictions

February 07, 2017, 16:38 UTC+3 PRAGUE

On December 23, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow could grant visa waiver for Georgia

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PRAGUE, February 7. /TASS/. Georgia is ready to welcome Russia’s steps aimed at easing visa restrictions or even waiving visas, Georgia’s Special Representative for Relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze told reporters in Czech Republic’s capital of Prague on Tuesday.

"If Russia takes further steps to ease visa restrictions or even waive visas for Georgia’s citizens, we will welcome it, but we understand that it’s for the Russian authorities to decide," Abashidze added. He pointed out that in March 2012, Georgia had unilaterally waived visas for Russian nationals, while in early 2016, Russia had eased visa restrictions for Georgian citizens.

On Tuesday, in Prague, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Karasin said that it was too early to speak about waiving visas for Georgia. "Visas should not be expected to be waived soon, but we should work in this direction," the Russian diplomat said following his meeting with Abashidze. "We are not against visa-free travel but we don’t have diplomatic relations (with Georgia)." "Competent agencies should thoroughly discuss all the measures related to the two countries’ security," Karasin added.

Visa issue

On December 23, 2016, during his annual news conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow could grant visa waiver for Georgia. "I don’t rule out that visas for Georgian citizens could be waived. I think such decision would be reasonable partly because we see that Georgia’s authorities have been sending some positive signals," the Russian president added.

"It is very important that secret services and law enforcement agencies establish normal contacts between them in order to cooperate in combating terrorism, so we need to be sure that visa waiver will not damage our security," Putin said. "I think it is possible."

Russia introduced visas for Georgia in 2000, later Georgia took a similar decision. In 2004, Georgia unilaterally eased visa restrictions for Russian citizens who received an opportunity to obtain one-to three-month visas upon their arrival in the country. In 2011, Georgia granted visa-free entry for a period of up to 90 days for Russian citizens residing in North Caucasus republics and entering the country via the Kazbegi checkpoint. In March 2012, Georgia waived visas for Russian nationals.

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