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Russia claims S. Caucasus is trafficking for terrorists and drugs

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, February 23
Lavrov has stated that the South Caucasus region and Georgia in particular is a route for terrorists and drug traffickers.

He also stated that lifting of Russia’s visa regime with Georgia would be related to the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries, which were suspended after the Russia-Georgia War in 2008; cooperation between law enforcement agencies of the two sides should be established.

Tbilisi responded to the allegations only three days later on February 21 that caused the opposition’s criticism.

Zurab Abashidze dubbed Lavrov’s statements “incorrect”, and stressed that the increase of foreign visitors, 1 million tourists from Russia last year among them, was an “obvious indicator” of the substantial security in Georgia.

Abashidze also stated that about 2,000 people have left for Syria and Iraq to join extremist groups from Russia.

The Envoy highlighted that the restoration of diplomatic ties with Russia was dependent on Georgia reintegrating its de facto regions of South Ossetia (Tskhinvali) and Abkhazia, a total of 20 percent of Georgia's territory which remains occupied by Russia.

Senior Georgian Foreign Ministry figures stated that the reason of not responding promptly to Lavrov’s statement was that “nothing new was stated.”

The ministry representatives stressed that Georgia-EU visa waiver was proof that Georgia’s security level was high.

Members of the opposition and some NGOs have criticized the Government for not responding to Lavrov’s accusations.

Batu Kutelia, an NGO representative, Georgia’s ex-Ambassador to the United States under the United National Movement Government, stated through making such statements Russia was trying to set some cliches.

Kutelia stressed the government of Georgia must push forward the country’s interests on all international platforms and condemn such statements together with Georgia’s allies. It should be remembered that the country is actively contributing in an international anti-terrorism activities and is fully involved its duty in protecting international peace and security.

The international community should more actively support Georgia’s genuine steps in maintaining anti-terrorist activities and this should be explained to Moscow many times.