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Georgia-Russia relations discussed at Rose-Roth Seminar in Tbilisi

By Ana Robakidze
Wednesday, May 1
Georgian-Russian relations and the Georgian government’s strategy for re-integration and consolidation of democratic processes were the main topics of discussion on the second day of the 83rd Rose - Roth Seminar organized by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Tbilisi.

Special Representative of the Georgian Prime Minister to Russia on Georgia-Russia Relations, Ambassador Zurab Abashidze, spoke about the results of the latest meetings with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Gregory Karasin have brought, particularly about the agreement on allowing Georgian products back on the Russian market.

Abashidze announced at the seminar that the next meeting with Karasin will be held in Prague on June 4-5. The sides plan to analyze the results of the renewed negotiations and to discuss the visa liberation procedures for some categories of Georgian citizens. This will be the third meeting between Abashidze and Karasin since the change of government in Georgia.

Lawrence Scott Sheets, the Caucasus Program Director for the International Crisis Group, fully supports the idea of settling relations with Russia only by means of negotiations. Relations with Russia are very complicated at the moment and need to be normalized, Sheets said at the Rose-Roth seminar.

In his speech, Sheets also touched upon the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He said that the situation in these break-away regions is totally controlled by the Russian federation, 80% of the Tskhinvali budget is financed by Russians.

Sheets is very concerned about the humanitarian situation in the conflict regions and says it is essential that the international monitoring mission's work is continued in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Restoring the railway through Abkhazia will cost a lot and cause controversial opinions, Sheets said at the seminar.

According to him “the humanitarian aims of restoring the railway is understandable and its goal may be strengthening trade connections, though trade is possible by sea transport and restoring the railway that has been closed for years, will cost a lot and cause differences of opinion”.

The Georgian side says the country is ready to start considering restoring the railway. However, according to the Deputy Minister for Reintegration, Ketevan Tsikhelashvil, still no steps have been taken with regards of the matter.

“We have not received an official reply from Russia, and there has not been a response on the level of experts either,” Ketevan Tsikhelashvili commented at the seminar.

Sarah Williamson, Chairman of the U.S Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, also thinks it is positive that the country tries to assimilate into the Russian market, as this will be profitable for business. However, in her speech at the Rose-Roth seminar, she advised business persons not to rely on the Russian market completely, as Russia has never done anything to prove that it can be a stable partner.