Fate of Abashidze-Karasin meetings
By Messenger Staff
Thursday, February 19The Russian media has reported on the meetings that will take place between Georgian and Russian envoys Zurab Abashidze and Gregory Karasin at the end of February. The Georgian Dream coalition members still describe the meeting format as important, while the opposition United National Movement (UNM) label the talks as shameful and harmful.
The Abashidze-Karasin format was introduced after the 2012 parliamentary elections, when then Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili appointed Zurab Abashidze as Georgia’s special envoy to Russia and decided to improve relations with Russia.
Georgia suspended diplomatic relations with Russia following the August War in 2008. Georgian Dream leaders were determined to launch reconciliation steps through talks that focus on economic and trade issues.
Initially the meetings resulted in positive developments. Georgian wine and mineral waters returned to the Russian market, as well as some other agricultural products. There was speculation and that the talks would put a stop to Russia’s aggressive steps towards Georgia.
However, this scenario did not materialize. On the contrary, Russia has intensified its policy in the de-facto regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia signed a treaty on Alliance and Partnership with Abkhazia, which was assessed as an attempt to annex the region, and Russia signed the same type of an agreement with South Ossetia just yesterday.
The situation has also changed regarding the Russian market. Following the sanctions against Russia owing to its unacceptable actions in Ukraine, the Russian economy has faltered. As such, this situation has affected the Georgian export market as well.
Despite the gaps in relations, the Russian side remains interested in continuing the format. In fact, Russian diplomats have dismissed speculation over the suspension of the meetings voiced by Georgia’s Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili.
Abashidze also confirms the meeting in February, stating that the talks will concern the trade-customs agreement signed in the frames of the World Trade Organization in 2011, as well as humanitarian and property related issues.
Giga Bokeria from the UNM asserts that contact with a rival country is important. However, the relations should not affect the state’s interests.
“The meeting’s format damages our interests, as Russia is trying to use the format as facade. In reality, the meetings are just a mask to cover Russia’s aggressive intentions,” Bokeria said.
Taking the recent developments in Georgia’s de-facto regions into account, the topics that will be discussed between Abashidze-Karasin later this month seem insignificant. Some Georgian analysts suggest that Russia causes far more damage to Georgia through its actions than Abashidze manages to solve at the meetings.