Georgian PM’s special representative for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, met Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, in Prague on June 27 as part of informal direct bilateral dialogue launched between the two countries in late 2012.
“The sides have reiterated readiness to continue pragmatic course towards gradual normalization of bilateral relations,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in its press release of the meeting.
“At the same time, the Russian side has noted again that unfriendly rhetoric of Georgian officials, also voiced in the context of election campaign [in Georgia], contradicts an objectively mutually beneficial process for the both sides,” it said.
Zurab Abashidze said after the meeting that he raised the issue of fatal shooting in Khurcha, when Georgian citizen Giga Otkhozoria was killed on the Georgian-controlled area close to the crossing point at the administrative boundary line with breakaway Abkhazia on May 19. Military court in breakaway Abkhazia ordered on June 23 house arrest for an Abkhaz border guard serviceman Rashid Kanji-Ogli pending trial on charges of premeditated murder of the Georgian citizen.
This measure, ordered by the breakaway region’s court, is completely “inadequate”, Abashidze said, adding that the suspect should be put behind the bars as soon as possible.
In its press release of the meeting, the Georgian PM’s office said that the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister “in general” shared this position that the suspect should be immediately arrested and prosecuted, but also noted that the crime was committed by the Abkhaz border guard serviceman and “the Russian side has nothing to do with it.”
“This is also the responsibility of the Russian side and it is impossible for Russia to shift the responsibility entirely on the Abkhaz side,” Zurab Abashidze told the Georgian Public Broadcaster after the meeting.
The Georgian PM’s office said that release of Georgian citizens, serving jail term in Russia on charges of espionage, was also discussed at the meeting.
“One more Georgian citizen will be released on June 28,” it said.
It will be the seventh Georgian citizen who will be released since 2014. Three of them, who were serving lengthy prison terms in Russia on spying charges, were handed over to Georgia earlier this month.
In January, 2013 Georgia released from jails 190 inmates who were recognized by the country’s Parliament as "political prisoners"; among them were several persons who were convicted for spying in favor of Russia, including three Russian citizens.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said after the June 27 meeting in Prague: “Joint efforts made it possible to agree on mutual release of number of citizens of the two countries.”
The Georgian PM’s office said that Abashidze notified his Russian interlocutor that Tbilisi finalized work on all the documents envisaged by 2011 WTO deal between the two countries on customs monitoring.
Georgia agreed to give its go-ahead to Russia’s WTO membership only after Tbilisi and Moscow signed a Swiss-mediated agreement in November, 2011, envisaging putting in place sophisticated systems for tracking and auditing of cargo passing through breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The deal has not yet been implemented.
The Russian Foreign Ministry made no mentioning of the issue in its press release of the June 27 meeting in Prague.