TBILISI, DFWatch–Russia promises to ease visa rules for Georgian citizens.
The news of this came after talks in Prague between a Georgian and a Russian diplomat.
The Abashidze-Karasin talks were launched after Georgian Dream came to power in 2012. They are held without involvement by any international organizations, unlike the Geneva talks or the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism, which is causing increasing dissatisfaction among Georgians.
This format of talks was originally intended to be only for discussing trade issues, but have at times been expanded to include other topics. Zurab Abashidze, who represents Georgia in these talks, often attempts to fit political issues into the agenda of the meetings, which has caused anger among Tbilisi’s political circles. However, in his official comments, Abashidze says what was discussed in Prague was trade issues.
Whereas the talks used to have a one-on-one format, this time Abashidze was also joined by Irakli Kanchakhadze, deputy head of the Foreign Ministry’s department in relations with neighbor states and the region, and Mikheil Khmaladze, Director of Land Transport Agency of the Economic Ministry. This has led some to believe that there would be brought up the issue of reopening the railway through Abkhazia, but this is a uniquely political issue and doesn’t fit into this format of talks. The government insists that the railway issue was not discussed during the Prague meeting.
The government also claims that during meeting, Georgia underlined the importance of the Geneva talks, which is a regular multilateral meeting between the warring parties from the 2008 Georgia-Russia war.
According to the government’s statement, the parties discussed trade, economy, transport and humanitarian issues, as well as the further development of trade economic relations.
“It was underlined that in 2015, trade turnover between the two states was reduced by 8.9 percent compared to 2014. In 2014, Georgian companies exported different products worth USD 275 million. In the first half of this year, this number was USD 65.8 million,” the statement reads.
The statement also says that flights have increased, as plane ticket have become less expensive, which has contributed to an increased number of tourists coming to Georgia.
The parties discussed allowing more Georgian products to be exported to Russia, but the government does not specify which types of products are covered.
Even though the government maintains that the Abashidze-Karasin talks is only about trade, the very same statement mentions ‘humanitarian’ issues, including simplifying visa rules.
“The Russian party confirmed that they consider practical matters to simplify visa rules for Georgian citizens and the Georgian party will learn the details about this in the future,” the statement reads.
Abashidze refrained from commenting, while government representatives say they will inform the public about the details when the specific decision have been made.
Russia brought in stricter visa rules for Georgia in 2006, after slapping an embargo on Georgian products and mass deportation of Georgians from Russia the same year. This matter is still making its way through the European Court of Human Rights.
After the war in August 2008, Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia and it became more complicated for Georgians to go to Russia. This situation has not changed until now, despite the new government’s attempts to mend relations, and despite Georgia allowing Russian citizens to enter without a visa.