Zurab Abashidze, Georgian Prime Minister’s special representative for Russia, and Russia’s former Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, who became a member of Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia in September 2019, but maintained his mandate to carry out a dialogue with Tbilisi, will hold a meeting in Prague on November 28, as part of the informal direct bilateral dialogue launched between the two countries in late 2012.
The two diplomats will meet amid aggravated situation between the two countries following the June 20 events, as well as recent tensions in the Russian-occupied Tskhinvali region following resumed borderization across the line of occupation, placement of additional police checkpoints by Tskhinvali and Tbilisi, Tskhinvali’s decision to close crossing points with the rest of Georgia, as well as detention of Georgian doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili by the occupation forces.
Zurab Abashidze told reporters on November 27 that Vazha Gaprindashvili’s release would be the top issue he would raise at the meeting. “Not only it violates international norms, but it is an absolutely inhuman act,” he said, adding that “this person should be released as soon as possible.” “Let me assure you that we are doing our best for it,” Abashidze said.
Commenting on the upcoming meeting, Grigory Karasin said in the interview with Russian news agency Sputnik on November 25 that Moscow is closely following this “difficult issue” [Gaprindashvili’s detention] and hopes that it will be resolved quickly. He also noted that this issue should be discussed at the Geneva International Discussions, whose Co-Chairs, visited Tskhinvali recently, along with Tbilisi, Sokhumi and Moscow.
Karasin said that the issues of trade and economic relations, current situation in the transport sphere, humanitarian and other issues will be discussed during the meeting with Abashidze.
“We are getting ready for this important meeting to reiterate our commitment to developing Russian-Georgian relations, moving ahead and achieving particular results,” Karasin said.
He also discussed the issue of resumption of direct flights between Russia and Georgia, saying it is too early to claim that direct flights will be resumed in late 2019. “Resumption of direct flights needs joint work. First of all, it concerns normalization of the atmosphere [between the two countries], also preventing anti-Russian, provocative statements similar to those made in June, when several Georgian politicians showed themselves,” he said.
Karasin also commented on the format of negotiations with Abashidze and focused on “resumption of good neighborly relations” between the two countries.
He said that the format of negotiations is “informal,” stressing that its politicization remains a major threat. “This format should be solving the vital issue of bilateral relations,” Karasin noted, adding that the sides should listen to and understand each other.
Karasin said that “good neighborly relations” between Russia and Georgia are hampered by “excessive emotions, unreasonable and rough statements, which are leading us to the deadlock.” “If we avoid such emotions in the future, movement towards normal, good neighborly relations will keep up its momentum,” Karasin said, adding that “time is not far off” when such relations will be established between the two countries.
The relations between Russia and Georgia have aggravated since summer 2019.
A group of Georgian opposition and civic activists gathered in front of the Parliament of Georgia on June 20, condemning the Russian delegation’s presence at a session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in plenary chamber of Georgian parliament earlier that day, during which Sergei Gavrilov, Russian Orthodox Communist MP addressed the session in Russian from Parliament Speaker’s chair.
In response to the public protests, Georgia’s top officials requested Russian lawmakers to leave Tbilisi immediately, prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to ban direct flights between the two countries.
On September 26, 2019, Georgian and Russian Foreign Ministers, Davit Zalkaliani and Sergey Lavrov, respectively, held the first meeting since the two countries cut diplomatic ties following the Russo-Georgia war in 2008. The Swiss-mediated meeting was held on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
Tbilisi and international community, including the European Union, the United Nations, OSCE and the United States welcomed the meeting.