MOSCOW, April 02, /ITAR-TASS/. The Russian Foreign Ministry has noted the importance of experts’ role in normalising relations with Georgia.
The statement was made after a meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and participants in the Russian-Georgian conference on regional security and bilateral cooperation on Wednesday, April 2. They exchanged views on the current state of affairs and possible ways to normalise relations between the two countries, as well as long-term stability and security in the Transcaucasia. “The role of the expert community in achieving these goals was noted,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The conference was organised by the MGIMO University of International Relations as part of the efforts aimed at promoting dialogue between Russia and Georgia.
A month ago, in early March 2014, Karasin and Georgian prime minister’s special representative for relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze held their sixth meeting in Prague to discuss possible political and public contacts between the two countries.
This was the sixth contact as part of the informal dialogue on how to normalise Georgian-Russian relations, which was started in 2012 at the initiative of Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. The purpose is to discuss practical cooperation in areas where real progress can be achieved in the absence of diplomatic relations between our countries. These are trade, transport and humanitarian aspects, the Foreign Ministry said.
The efforts undertaken up to date have resulted in the return of Georgian wine, mineral water and agricultural produce to the Russian market, resumption of motor service between the two countries, and 24-hour operation of the Verkhny Lars (Russia) - Kazbegi (Georgia) border-crossing point.
The two countries are engaged in consultations on the resumption of regular air service as well. Cultural, sport, religious, and business ties have been stepped up. “Last year, 40 percent more visas were issued to Georgian citizens for these purposes than in 2012,” Lukashevich noted, adding that the participation of Georgian athletes in the Sochi Olympics had also had a positive effect on relations between the two countries.
“Our invariable position is that the meetings in the Prague format do not touch upon the issues that are addressed at the Geneva discussions on security and stability in the Transcaucasia, which remain relevant as an important forum, including for predictability in the region,” the spokesperson said.
Russia and Georgia have been trying to normalise their relations on different fronts, including through the dialogue between Karasin and Abashidze.
At their upcoming sixth meeting in Prague they will focus on “how to facilitate further development of trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, as well as cultural and humanitarian contacts,” Abashidze said.
The talks with Karasin have “produced certain results” in terms of restoring and developing trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation between the two countries, he noted.
“The meetings initiated by Georgia helped restore and develop trade, economic and cultural relations, tourism, and human contacts,” Abashidze said. “This is only the beginning of hard work to normalise relations between the two countries,” he added.
Russia has for the first time in six years allowed the import of Georgian wine, brandy, tea and dried fruits. Georgian tangerines, apples and pears had returned to the Russian market by November. As a result, bilateral trade turnover has increased manifold, with Moscow ranking among Georgia’s top five trade partners.
In late December 2013, Margvelashvili said that the direct dialogue between Abashidze and Karasin had not used up its potential and would be continued.
He believes that such consultations “have helped restore trade, economic and cultural relations between the two countries” and “can foster a high level of trust between the states and provide the background for solving important issues in the future.”
Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said her country would continue “a balanced policy” to normalise relations with Russia.
“Everyone understands that normalisation of relations with Russia will be a difficult process. At the same time, the format of direct dialogue with Moscow, specifically in the Abashidze-Karasin format, has already produced positive results and this progress should be carried on,” she said.
The minister reiterated that Georgia would continue “consistent policy” towards normalising relations with Russia.
“Direct dialogue between Abashidze and Karasin has played an important role in this process,” she said.
The minister said the sides “have made progress in restoring and developing trade, economic and humanitarian relations between the two countries.”
However, she stressed that “relations with Russia will not be normalised to the detriment of Georgia’s territorial integrity.”
The first meeting between Abashidze and Karasin took place in Geneva’s suburbs on December 14, 2012 and the following three were held in Prague on March 1, June 5, September 19, 2013, and November 21, 2013.
Russia needs patience and time to understand where its relations with Georgia are, Karasin said. “We expect no quick and easy solutions. We will need patience and time to understand where we are in our bilateral relations, what has become more real and what remains unsolvable,” he said.
Karasin said Russia and Georgia wished to build mutually advantageous long-standing relations.
“The era of maniacal animosity that was imposed by the previous leadership of Georgia is history now. We are jointly looking for solutions that would be based on mutual respect and mutual advantages,” Karasin said. “The public opinion in our countries welcomes the improvement of atmosphere in relations between Russia and Georgia. In fact, Georgia has never been considered an enemy in Russia,” he said.