TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgia and Russia are considering simplifying visa rules. This became clear as diplomats from the two countries met in Prague on Thursday to discuss transport, communication and humanitarian issues.
During the regular Prague meeting, Russia reaffirmed that in the near future, some categories of Georgian citizens may be able to visit using a simplified set of visa rules.
Davit Bakradze, Georgia’s minister for Euro-integration, on Friday denied that Georgia has asked Russia, in any format of talks, to ease its visa rules for Georgian citizens, but he told journalists that whereas Georgia abolished visa requirement for Russian citizens a few years ago, Russia on the other hand has maintained a strict visa policy for Georgians since the war in August, 2008.
When Zurab Abashidze, the Georgian prime minister’s representative for relations with Russia, and Gregory Karasin, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, met in Prague on Thursday, Abashidze raised the issue of the continuing detentions of Georgians at the so-called border with South Ossetia, according to the government administration.
Abashidze also brought up restrictions on studying the Georgian language in Gali, a district of Abkhazia with a predominantly ethnic Georgian population, as well as the installation of barbed wire and fences on Georgian-controlled territory.
According to the statement put out by the administration, the parties noted that over the last nine months, trade turnover between the two countries has been reduced by 8.9 percent, while the export of Georgian products to Russia went down by 47.1 percent. But on the other, the load of cargo on trailers and by other means has increased during the last nine months, and 14.6 percent more tourists have visited Georgia from Russia.
The meeting between Abashidze and Karasin was also attended by representatives of the Russian Transport Ministry and Foreign Ministry officials and Georgia’s Ministry of Economy and Foreign Ministry. The date of the next Prague meeting is not set.
Russian Foreign Ministry responded to the meeting by underlining that despite a ‘different approach’ to the principal political problems, the meetings in Prague are an opportunity to solve practical issues in bilateral relations.
Georgia raised the issue of citizens who are jailed in Russia for spying and the possibility of having them returned to Georgia.
The Abashidze-Karasin meetings have been held regularly since the change of government in the end of 2012. This is new format of talks between the two parties apart from the Geneva talks and the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms which involve conflict parties and mediators.