TBILISI, DFWatch–One of the main topics of conversation when Georgia and Russia met in Prague yesterday was whether Russia will simplify visa rules for Georgian citizens.
(Article has been updated with comments from Russia’s foreign ministry.)
The two countries broke diplomatic relations after the war in 2008, but have lately tried to gradually reestablish relations. This delicate process is handled by Zurab Abashidze, the prime minister’s special representative for relations with Russia, and Gregory Karasin, the Russian president’s representative.
Russian media quotes Karasin saying that Russia will not lift visa requirements for Georgian citizens as long as there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries. However, he doesn’t exclude that visa rules may be simplified for certain categories of the citizens.
Abashidze told journalists after the meeting that new topics for cooperation between the two states will be the science and health care.
The parties noted a certain progress in regards to trade relations, specifically export of Georgian products to the Russian market, which is in progress right now.
In February, 2012, President Saakashvili took the initiative to lift visa requirements for all Russian citizens and said he expected Russia to return the gesture. But Russian officials said that they will only cancel visa requirements for Georgians after Georgia has abolished the law on occupied territories, which makes it a crime to enter the breakaway territories Abkhazia and South Ossetia without permission from Tbilisi.
Georgia and Russia met December 14 in Geneva, represented by Karasin and Abashidze. That was the first direct meeting after relations went sour after the war in 2008.
Saturday, the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Russia published a statement summing up the ‘positive moves’ in relations with Georgia.
The statement draws attention to a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Georgian Patriarch Illia II, a short meeting between Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, points out that members of parliament from the two countries recently met in Strasbourg, and that a group of experts from the consumer safety bureau Rosptrebnadzor recently visited Georgia to study the environment in the wine and mineral water industry.
“All this has created the necessary positive atmosphere in certain fields to solve practical issues.”
As for the latest meeting, according to the statement, the parties exchanged viewpoints on air and ground transport and discussed cooperation in humanitarian issues, simplifying visa rules and other things.
“Overall, the meeting was constructive, and it contributed to taking a practical step forwards in a number of issues,” the statement reads, and adds that the next meeting will be held in the end of May or beginning of June.