Zurab Abashidze, Georgian Prime Minister’s special representative for Russia, met with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin in Prague on July 7, as part of the informal direct bilateral dialogue launched between the two countries in late 2012.
Both sides reported after the meeting that the diplomats spoke on the results of the two countries’ commercial and economic relations in the first half of 2017, as well as the future perspectives of cooperation in these fields.
“The sides have reiterated readiness to continue mutually-beneficial normalization of bilateral relations,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in its press release of the meeting.
“As usual, the officials discussed specific issues concerning the development of Russian-Georgian relations in those areas where progress can be reached in the absence of diplomatic relations - trade, transport and humanitarian contacts,” the Ministry said.
The Russian MFA stated that the results achieved in the three areas are “indicative,” including the 40% growth in trade turnover and the “growing” number of Russian tourists and investments in Georgia.
The Ministry added that the trade intensification led to “a considerable increase in the motor freight transportation, increasing the importance of establishing uninterrupted movement along the Georgian Military Road,” which runs through the Kazbegi-Zemo Larsi border crossing point, the only border crossing point between Russia and Georgia under Tbilisi’s control and the only available direct land link for transportation. According to the Ministry, the sides agreed to “work out in practical terms” the issues of Kazbegi-Zemo Larsi border crossing point upgrade.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Karasin emphasized again that “the consolidation of Tbilisi’s cooperation with NATO and the mounting hostile rhetoric of Georgian officials at international venues are increasingly at odds with the trend towards stronger trade, transport and humanitarian ties and are capable of undermining this process that is objectively beneficial to the peoples of both countries.”
Georgian PM’s office reported in its press release of the meeting, that “although the Prague format does not cover the issues of security and Georgia’s occupied regions,” Abashidze still focused on the “alarming developments” in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region, as well as across the occupation line, including the recent installation of a new “so-called border sign” in the area of Bershueti village, Gori district.
Customs Monitoring Agreement
Georgian PM’s office said that, during the meeting, Abashidze reiterated once again to his Russian interlocutor that Tbilisi finalized its work on all 2011 WTO deal-related documents and added that “if the Russian Federation demonstrates willingness,” Tbilisi will also be ready to sign the contract with SGS, the Swiss inspection company tasked to monitor trade between the two countries, “in the agreed timeframe.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry repeated that the diplomats spoke on the agreement, saying its enforcement “may be an important contribution to promoting trade.” “The sides reaffirmed their mutual readiness to fulfil all of its provisions and sign in the near future a contract with the Swiss monitoring company and an agreement on establishing a trust fund [for its implementation],” the Ministry statement reads.
Quoting the words of Karasin, the Georgian PM’s office said that “the Russian side is ready to discuss with the Swiss company the timeframe for signing the respective contracts, as well as the respective [implementation] mechanism, so that the implementation of the 2011 deal is launched.”
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 the deployment of sophisticated systems for tracking and auditing of cargo passing through three “trade corridors,” two of which run in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions and the third one on the Zemo Larsi-Kazbegi border crossing point on the undisputed section of Georgia-Russia border.
SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company headquartered in Geneva, has been selected for carrying out the monitoring. According to the agreement, Russia and Georgia should sign separate contracts with the company and establish a Trust Fund for its implementation.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the next meeting between Abashidze and Karasin is expected to take place at the end of the year.