Karasin: meetings with Abashidze remain most important channel of Russia-Georgia dialogue
Russia is ready to establish diplomatic relations with Georgia, despite fundamental differences in approaches to certain political processes, Russia's State Secretary - Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said.
"In the absence of diplomatic relations, meetings with Georgian Prime Minister's special representative Zurab Abashidze remain the most important channel for the intergovernmental dialogue between Russia and Georgia, which is being conducted on behalf of the leadership of both countries," he said, speaking with Russia’s Izvestiya newspaper.
"Since we have always supported the normalization of Russian-Georgian relations, at the end of 2012, we immediately responded to a positive signal from Tbilisi," the deputy head of the diplomatic department said, adding that since then positive results have been achieved in trade, economic, transport and humanitarian spheres through constructive efforts on both sides. "Last year, mutual trade exceeded $707 million," Karasin said, pointing out that now Russia is among the three major trading partners of Georgia. "Major share of money transfers to Georgians working abroad comes to Georgia for Russia, which is about $400 million a year," the Deputy Foreign Minister said. He also reminded that regular flights between a number of cities are carried out and more than 20 international bus routes operate. "Contacts of scientists, businessmen, and youth have become more active, more students from Georgia enter Russian universities," Karasin pointed out.
Speaking about the next meeting with Abashidze, which is scheduled for July 7, he said that its agenda is quite extensive. "I hope it will be held, as always, in a businesslike atmosphere," the Russian diplomat said, adding that "of course, we should not simplify the situation."
The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia said that there are still "principal differences in the approaches to political processes in the South Caucasus region between the parties". "Sadly, but in this issue the position of the current Georgian authorities is in no way different from the position of the regime of [former Georgian President Mikhail] Saakashvili. Moreover, recently Georgia's cooperation with the alliance takes such forms that it actually makes Tbilisi a participant of NATO's policy to deter Russia," Karasin said.
In this regard, the diplomat recalled that last year alone large exercises with the participation of contingents of NATO member countries were held on Georgian territory three times, the operational transfer of heavy military equipment from Europe has been specially carried out for the second year in a row.
In addition, the deputy foreign minister commented on the situation in visa issues with Georgia. "Even during the most difficult period in the Russian-Georgian relations, we have always tried to preserve and facilitate the conditions of communication between the citizens of our countries," he recalled. "Georgia abolished visas not only for Russians, but for citizens of approximately 100 countries," Karasin said.
"It will be difficult to organize large-scale joint work on the visa liberalization in the situation of absence of diplomatic relations," the Deputy Foreign Minister explained. "They have been broken on the initiative of the Georgian side, and the prospect of their restoration also depends solely on Tbilisi," Karasin concluded.