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Karasin Says NATO Uses Georgia to Deter Russia

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, November 20
(PRAGUE)—Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin claimed on November 16 that NATO continues to step up its activities near the Russian borders and seeks to put Georgia on the frontline of its campaign to contain Moscow’s ambitions in that once comprised the Soviet Union.

Karasin made the statement in Prague after meeting with the Georgian Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze.

"Unfortunately, the anti-Russian doctrine continues to manifest itself in Tbilisi and it is gaining strength as a constant factor in Georgia’s domestic and external policies,” Russian state news agency TASS quoted Karasin as saying.

He later went onto accuse certain Georgian politicians of repeatedly making ‘belligerent’ statements towards Russia, adding that some of the rhetoric emanating from Tbilisi is reminiscent of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s time in office. Saakashvili emerged from the 2003 Rose Revolution as Moscow’s fiercest opponent in the region.

"There’s no doubt that this affects the atmosphere of relations and often sends the wrong signals to the public in the two countries…But we, upon instructions from the leadership of both Russia and Georgia, will continue our work towards constructive dialogue,” said Karasin.

Karasin emphasized Russia’s status as Georgia’s second largest trade partner for the latter’s main export. Because of the sharp increase in wine exports to Russia, Karasin claimed that Georgia had Moscow to thank for the government’s decision to cancel grape subsidies for the year.

“We have very good trade statistics for the first eight months of the current year. Trade has grown 33%," he added.

Moscow’s daily illegal activities in Georgia’s Russian-occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions were among key issues raised by Abashidze at the meeting. Abashidze stressed that Russia’s actions violate not only Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty but also violate the principles of international law.

"This creates serious challenges for the security of Georgia, as well as for the whole South Caucasus region,” Abashidze said.

Tbilisi also reported that the bilateral negotiations touched upon problems regarding the implementation of a 2011 agreement on the mechanism of customs administration and monitoring of regional trade.

The two sides hope to meet in Switzerland by the end of November and sign a contract with Geneva-based company SGS to begin implementing the 2011 deal.

The bilateral meetings are the only format of official relations with Russia since the 2008 Russian-Georgian War. The format was created to discuss trade and economic relations and is held at least twice a year.