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PM’s special envoy speaks about the progress in Georgia-Russian negotiations

By Ana Robakidze
Monday, September 30
The Georgian PM’s special envoy for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze visited Parliament of Georgia to brief MPs on the developments in Georgia-Russian relations. Abashidze spoke about the results as well as about the challenges in his talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin. The two have met four times so far.

Georgian MPs had number of questions regarding the latest developments in the villages along the occupation line and “borderization” process Russia and South Ossetian de-facto government had agreed on. Abashidze mainly focused on trade, the economy, and humanitarian and cultural related topics. The format of Abashidze-Karasin meetings does not cover security issues and foreign policy. However, considering the latest escalations along the occupation line, Abashidze had to raise the issue of “borderization” with Karasin.

The Georgian negotiator explained to Karasin that the “borderization“ process creates additional negative aspects to the dialogue between the two countries and is also a very inadequate reply to the positive steps taken by the Georgian government.

The Georgian PM’s special envoy said that his bilateral talks with Russia have already brought results. Speaking about opening up the Russian market for Georgian products, Abashidze said that that value of Georgian exports to Russia has almost doubled in the first eight months of 2013, compared to the figure from 2012, when exports were only $45.8 million USD. The government is expecting the figure to increase reaching $100 million by the end of the year.

Abashidze said that the demand on Georgian wine is very high in Russia, but businesspeople have to decide whether to enter the opened doors of the Russian market or not. “All markets have some risks, especially the Russian market. Therefore no one can give a guarantee to a businessman that exports will not be suspended again due to some political reasons. I think our businessmen understand it very well. “Abashidze said. He hopes that Georgian winemakers keep a wise attitude and will not try to focus all their exports in the Russian market only.

The Georgian envoy told MPs that an agreement has been reached to resume road freight transportation by Georgian cargo carriers to Russia. Abashidze is going to continue negotiations and make it possible to export agriculture products to Russia.

The Georgian-Russian railway link, which cuts through breakaway Abkhazia, was among the topics Abashidze spoke about in the parliament. He explained to MPs that the issue of the restoration of the Abkhazian railway link has never been raised during his bilateral meetings with the Russian Foreign Minister. “As far as I can see, this issue is not actively discussed in Abkhazia either.” Abashidze said and added that Tbilisi is open for discussions if the question is raised.

Abashidze said that Georgia agreed to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and this step lowers the probability of Russia accusing Georgia if something goes wrong during the Olympics.

We all remember how it used to happen – if something was happening in the North Caucasus, Russia was immediately pointing the finger at us,” Abashidze said.

The hearing lasted for more than two hours. The meeting was convened by the Temporary Commission on Territorial Integrity Issues, Foreign Relations Committee and Diaspora and Caucasus Issues Committee. Gia Volski, Chairman of the temporary commission said it was very important to organize the meeting with the special envoy to reveal the latest progress the country has achieved in negotiations with Russia and also to give some recommendations for future meetings. Unlike the parliamentary majority, the opposition United National Movement (UNM) was not satisfied with the meeting with Abashidze. Akaki Minashvili, MP from the UNM said that they could not receive any concrete answer from Abashidze and it seems that the dialogue has no purpose.

“The purpose of the dialogue (between Abashizde and Karasin) is very uncertain for me, when I see that the issues of returning IDPs to their homes and de-occupation are not raised and Abashidze states that these topics do not meet the format of the talks,“ Minashvili said after the committee hearing.