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Meeting format of Georgian-Russian envoys expands

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, May 15
Georgia’s Special Envoy to Russia Zurab Abashidze, whose duties are frequently criticized by the opposition United National Movement (UNM) representatives, states that the meeting format among Georgia’s and Russia’s special representatives is likely to expand in the near future.

Abashidze stressed that the following meeting between him and Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Gregory Karasin will take place in Prague in June.

Abashidze states that the meeting format is completely devoted to economic topics and will include economic experts from both sides.

“As we are focused on only trade-economic issues, it will be a reasonable representative from both countries’ ministries of economy who will be involved in the negotiation process,” Abashidze said.

The special envoy also stressed that high level meetings among Russian and Georgian leading officials are not still on the agenda.

He emphasized that such types of events require in-depth preparation, but the Prague meeting will focus solely on economic relations.

“If such a meeting takes place it should be dedicated to initial topics, issues related to the country’s territorial integrity. If Russia really wants to take steps in this regard, the wish should first of all be shown in the frame of the Geneva International Talks,” Abashidze says.

“No such meetings have been discussed yet. If a solution is made over the topic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be authorized to organize it,” Abashidze said.

A couple of days ago Karasin said that a high level meeting among Georgian and Russian leadership “exists as a future possibility.”

“The potential is always there. However, it requires readiness and preconditions. If such meetings are poorly planned, they might provide negative consequences rather than positive ones. I believe that our partners see the angle from the right side and we are working to create the relevant atmosphere for such an event,” Karasin said.

The Abashidze-Karasin meeting format was introduced under the current Georgian leadership, through the initiative of former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.

The format includes cooperation on economic issues, as according to the current leadership launching talks with more heated issues would cause the failure of the meeting from the outset.

The format has caused certain positive outcomes and several Georgian products, including wine and mineral waters, returned to the Russian market.

The opposition and several analysts believe that encouraging close economic ties with Russia will stick the Georgian market to the Russian one, and the latter will use the level against Georgia in the case of some confrontation, as it did prior to the August Georgian-Russian War in 2008.

The opposition also suggests that the current Georgian authorities are too loyal towards Russia that is successfully used by the Federation for its own interests at the international level.