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Abashidze and Karasin speak about bilateral trade, consequences of joining NATO

By Nika Gamtsemlidze
Monday, June 17
“Russia does not want its neighbor Georgia to be a member of NATO,” said the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Grigory Karasin, in Prague after meeting with Zurab Abashidze, a Special Representative of the Prime Minister of Georgia on Relations with Russia. As Karasin said, he discussed this issue at a meeting with Abashidze.

“This is not a threat to Russia, but Russian-Georgian relations. It is one thing to have a neighbor, a good neighbor with whom you have problems, and we certainly have some, but it’s another thing when your neighbor is a member of the North Atlantic Alliance,” noted Karasin.

As Karasin said before the meeting, it is important that the negative attitude remains in the past, as it allows for the solution of fundamental issues in trade-economic and transport areas.“ Many Russian tourists travel in Georgia. Last year, there were over half a million Russian tourists in Georgia, and this year, the number is even higher; also, we have cultural contacts,” noted Karasin.

Karasin also talked about the statement of Mike Pompeo, United States Secretary of State, where he said that Anaklia port is a right way for Georgian economy to develop and it ensures Georgia will not be “under the influence of Russian or Chinese economy.” karasin claims Russia is interested in the development of Georgia, in its economic, cultural, and social development, but "the tone of the US does not work with us,” he said.

According to Karasin, Georgia, becoming part of NATO faster than expected will have a “devastating effect on our relationship.”

As Abashidze says, the country, which has a vast army and a nuclear weapon, should not be talking with its neighbors in a threatening language.

“When I hear representatives of Russian Federation making threatening remarks, to be honest, sometimes, I feel awkward. A country, member of United Nations Security Council, the world's largest state, with the army of millions and nuclear weapons, should not be talking with its neighbors in a threatening way. If it is a demonstration of power, I think it is doing the opposite,” said Abashidze in an interview with the media.

Answering Karasin, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Mamuka Bakhtadze says that Russia has been trying to create a sense that they have the right to veto the foreign priorities of Georgia, but, according to him, “that time is in the past now.”

In an interview with TV Imedi, Bakhtadze says that the people of Georgia has made a choice, which means Georgia’s integration into NATO and the EU, as well as Georgia’s strategic partnership with the United States. “Our international aspirations are not directed against anyone,” said the PM.

According to the statement published by the Government of Georgia, at the beginning of the meeting, Abashidze emphasized the difficult situation of human rights in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. While giving specific examples, Abashidze noted that there is a growing militarization of these regions, the norms of international law and the territorial integrity of Georgia are being violated.

The sides discussed the dynamics of trade and economic relations between the two states, transport links, and some humanitarian issues.

The discussion touched upon the implementation of the 2011 Agreement between the Government of Georgia and the Government of the Russian Federation on the basic principles for a Mechanism of customs administration and monitoring of trade in goods. It was noted that the sides should support the work of the experts, which will ensure the success of the agreement.

The United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with PM Bakhtadze during his official visit to the US last week. Pompeo spoke about “Georgia’s leadership role as an aspiring NATO ally” and expressed the hope for the Anaklia Deep-Sea Port completion.

The Abashidze-Karasin format was initiated at the end of 2012 by the former Prime Minister and the founder of the ruling Party, Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili to solve economic and transport issues between Russia and Georgia. According to Abashidze, since then export to Russia has increased significantly. As opposed to the Geneva International Discussions, the Abashidze-Karasin talks do not focus on political issues but mainly address issues related to trade, economic, humanitarian, and cultural aspects of the Russian-Georgian relationship.

In August of 2008, in the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian War, Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia. Currently, Russia has 20% of the Georgian territories occupied.

The meeting in Prague was held on June 13, and according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the next meeting between Abashidze and Karasin is expected to take place in the autumn of 2019.