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Border provocations may complicate Russia-Georgia meeting — Russian Foreign Ministry

April 16, 2014, 13:15 UTC+3 MOSCOW

April 15, Russian border guards, protecting the border between the Republic of South Ossetia and Georgia in compliance with the interstate agreement, detained three Georgian TV journalists

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MOSCOW, April 16. /ITAR-TASS/. Provocations on Georgia-South Ossetia border are aimed at hampering a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and Georgia’s special representative for improving relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, Russia’s Foreign Ministry says.

“April 15, Russian border guards, protecting the border between the Republic of South Ossetia and Georgia in compliance with the interstate agreement, detained three Georgian TV journalists. Under the existing procedure the detainees have been handed over to South Ossetia’s authorities,” the ministry says.

“Reports prove that the trespassers deliberately crossed the border near the village of Adzvi and took photos of the security infrastructure,” it says.

“It is noteworthy that such provocations are being organized precisely on the eve of a regular meeting in Prague. These incidents, as well as the recent allegations about ‘Russia’s violation of Georgian airspace’, testify to internal rifts in the Georgian society: some want to normalize relations with Russia while others share [former Georgian president] Mikhail Saakhashvili’s policy of fanning tensions,” the ministry says.

A month ago, in early March 2014, Karasin and 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 normalize 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 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.

Abashidze and Karasin were initially scheduled to meet on March 4 but agreed to postpone the consultations until March 14 and then put them off “until a later date”. Last week, Georgian and Russian officials said that the meeting would be held in Prague on April 16. Abashidze has repeatedly said lately that “during telephone conversations with Grigory Karasin both sides called for continuing the dialogue in this format”.

Their first meeting took place on December 14, 2012 in Geneva’s suburb and the following four in Prague in March, June, September and November 2013. They represented the first direct dialogue between government officials of the two countries since 2008.

In March 2014, Abashidze noted that the forthcoming meeting in Prague would “traditionally cover such topics as the development of cooperation between the two countries in the areas of trade, transport and economy”. It was announced in late February that the diplomats might also discuss “the possibility of organizing and holding a meeting between the Georgian and Russian top officials”, but neither side has mentioned this again in recent weeks.

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