Zurab Abashidze, Georgian Prime Minister’s special representative for Russia, and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin met in Prague on May 24, as part of the informal direct bilateral dialogue launched between the two countries in late 2012.
Both sides reported after the meeting that the diplomats spoke on the “positive” dynamics of the two countries’ commercial, economic and humanitarian relations in the first quarter of 2018, and expressed hope for “depoliticized” implementation of the 2011 customs monitoring agreement.
“Grigory Karasin expressed hope for Georgia’s good-faith, depoliticized compliance with its commitments, which will contribute to creating a proper international legal framework for regional trade,” the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in its press release of the meeting.
Zurab Abashidze, on his part, “emphasized that the Georgian side signed a similar contract back in December 2017, and expressed hope that the Russian authorities would approach their commitments in good faith and without politicization of the issue,” according to the Georgian PM’s press service.
The press office also reported that “although the Prague format does not cover issues related to Georgia’s occupied regions,” Abashidze still raised the cases of Archil Tatunashvili and Giga Otkhozoria, two Georgian citizens murdered at the hands of the Moscow-backed authorities of Tskhinvali and Sokhumi, respectively.
“Abashidze noted that the Georgian side would use all leverages at its disposal to bring the perpetrators to justice, and no one should have any illusions that Georgia will compromise [its position],” the statement reads.
Grigory Karasin commented on the death of Archil Tatunashvili in his press remarks after the meeting, saying it was “indeed a tragedy.” He also stressed “everything needs so that such cases do not happen again, and we will do this, but these issues need to be discussed through direct contacts between representatives of Georgia and South Ossetia.”
NATO-Georgia Cooperation ‘Direct Threat’ to Russia
The Russian Foreign Ministry kept up with its tradition of criticizing Georgia’s relations with NATO, with Grigory Karasin stressing that “the military development” of the South Caucasus by non-regional forces was a “direct threat to Russia.”
“Georgia’s NATO partners openly state that they are arming Georgia precisely to “contain Russia,” and in this situation, Russia is entitled to take appropriate measures to strengthen its security and the security of its allies,” reads the statement.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also said that the next meeting between Abashidze and Karasin is expected to take place in autumn, 2018.