Zurab Abashidze: "Georgia applies businesslike approach to dialogue with Russia"
Another round of talks between Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and Special Envoy of the Georgian Prime Minister for Relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze will be held in Prague on Thursday. On the eve of this event, within the framework of the only format of the diplomatic dialogue that exists between Moscow and Tbilisi, Zurab Abashidze told Vestnik Kavkaza about the agenda of the meeting and the Georgian authorities' assessment of the talks in Prague.
- Zurab Iraklievich, what issues will be discussed at the meeting on November 16?
- We have a traditional agenda - economic and trade relations, transport communications, particular humanitarian issues. Such an agenda has been agreed upon the day when we started the bilateral Prague dialogue at the end of 2013. Since then we have been following this agenda. More complex security and humanitarian issues, including those concerning Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region (Georgian name of South Ossetia - VK) are considered in the format of the Geneva international consultations.
- What progress has been made in Russian-Georgian relations since your last meeting with Grigory Borisovich?
- There is an ongoing dynamic. First, trade has been almost completely restored in 2013. This process was conducted in a phased manner, and now, in principle, trade has come back to normal. Tourism in Georgia is developing, until the end of the year our country will be visited by about 1 million Russian citizens who do not need visas for this. There has been a certain simplification of the visa regime for Georgians since 2016, although they still need visas, which is due to certain bureaucratic obstacles. In any case, certain steps have been taken on the practical issues that we consider with Mr. Karasin.
- How does the Georgian leadership currently consider and evaluate this format of negotiations with Russia?
- We are in favour of continuing the dialogue, of discussing those issues where it is possible to find common ground, where progress is possible. That is, we apply a businesslike approach. But at the same time, we emphasize whenever and wherever possible that we cannot get used to the current situation - this is the red line, behind which there are our state interests, where any compromises on our part are not possible. I think, the Russian side knows about it and, maybe, even understands it to a certain extent deep down.
- Do you know when your next meeting with Grigory Karasin take place?
- Our meetings take place every quarter, but they are not determined in advance. The day after tomorrow we will meet to discuss all the issues and agree on a new date for the continuation of the talks.