TBILISI, DFWatch–Russia again has offered to cancel visa requirements for Georgian citizens, if Georgia creates legal guarantees for Russian citizens to safely visiting the country, which means that Georgia will have to amend its law on the occupied territories.
Alexander Lukashevich, spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, said Friday that Moscow can offer Tbilisi to restore diplomatic relations, which were broken off about four years ago in the wake of a brief war between the two countries.
“We emphasize once again that we were and are interested in strengthening the ties between the peoples of Russia and Georgia,” he said. “We are ready to establish mutual visa-free regime for the citizens of Georgia. This requires that the Georgian side provides a reliable legal environment that can guarantee the safety of Russians visiting Georgia.”
Lukashevich added that they expect a response from Tbilisi to the above mentioned; however the Georgian government officials haven’t yet responded.
Georgia’s Law on the Occupied Territories makes it a crime for people to visit the breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia without permission from Tbilisi.
Russia has demanded that it no longer entails any criminal responsibility to visit the breakaway areas and has made this a condition for allowing Georgian citizens to visit Russia without a visa. This followed an initiative from Saakashvili in 2012 to allow all Russian citizens visit Georgia without a visa, with an expectation that there would be a corresponding step made by Moscow.
There were talks to amend the law on occupied territories when government changed in Georgia, but so far no draft bill has been presented to parliament . A few days ago, the EU Commission recommended to Georgia to review this law.