Abashidze: Russian Side couldn't Name Fact of Russophobia against Tourists

"The Prague format, facilitating informal dialogue with the Russian side, is designed primarily to discuss practical issues, such as trade and economic relations, transport ties, and certain humanitarian topics. And we were planning to discuss these issues this time as well. Before setting to discuss issues on the agenda, however, I often raise topics that seem most pressing and urgent to us in Georgia, and one such problem is related to the occupied territories, of course," the Georgian Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Relations with the Russian Federation Zurab Abashidze said of yesterday’s online meeting with Member of Russia’s Federation Council Grigory Karasin.

Abashidze noted that at the outset of the meeting, he once again brought up the issue of the dire situation in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.

“I emphasized that, despite the pandemic, large-scale military training is still in full swing, that so-called borderization continues along the occupation lines, people’s movement is restricted, human rights are blatantly violated, and so on, with special emphasis on the recently approved program for creating a unified social and economic space between Russia and occupied Abkhazia, pointing out that it is viewed by the Georgian side as yet another illegal step toward de-facto annexation. I expressed hope that these issues will be discussed in detail, substantially in the format of the Geneva International Talks, which will be held soon, I hope,” Abashidze said.

According to the Prime Minister’s Special Representative, of the issues on the meeting agenda, the dynamic of trade relations in a 10-month period between January and September of 2020 was discussed.

“It was pointed out that the pandemic has somewhat cut down our trade turnover. We discussed transport ties, with emphasis on protecting the interests of our companies in these difficult times, because transport and trade ties engage numerous Georgian companies. In this context, the Russian side mentioned the topic of restoring flights, adding that, with favorable epidemiological conditions in place, this issue could be negotiated, but to that end, it is also necessary to create guarantees for Russian tourists and visitors in Georgia and to stop Russophobe antics. They also expressed hope that, with the lections over, Russophobe antics would also stop. We responded that flights were terminated on the Russian side’s initiative, but this issue can be negotiated once there are adequate epidemiological conditions. But there have been no Russophobe antics against Russian tourists in years. Millions of Russian tourists have visited Georgia, and the Russian side cannot refer even to a single case to support this claim. What guarantees are we talking about when no such incidents targeting Russian tourists have occurred in the first place?” Zurab Abashidze stated.

According to the Prime Minister’s Special Representative, the conversation also touched on the 2011 Agreement on Customs Monitoring, underlining that, in this period, small progress has been achieved and expressing commitment to facilitating the work of relevant expert groups.

“Again, based on the Russian side’s interest, we reiterated in relation to Lugar laboratory that its work is absolutely transparent and its door is always open to international experts. Russian experts, among others, have visited it in the past. It is one of Georgia’s leading, highly esteemed institutions in the fight against the epidemic, which is why the propaganda hype stirred against it in Russia is absolutely unacceptable, because it tarnishes Georgia’s reputation and even more so the image of Russia. Thus, as the epidemiological situation normalizes, Lugar laboratory will be ready to host international experts, including Russian specialists, though only as part of an international group, together with other foreign experts. This is something we have said before. From the Russian side, we received information that they are planning to reconstruct the territory adjacent to the Kazbegi-Larsi border checkpoint in order to facilitate cargo shipment,” Zurab Abashidze said.

The Prime Minister’s Special Representative also commented on the recent statement by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, published after the online meeting between Zurab Abashidze and Member of Russia’s Federation Council Grigory Karasin. According to Zurab Abashidze, the events of 2019 were not even mentioned during the meeting, being only an interpretation by the Russian side.

“The comments posted on the website of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs contain this passage: ‘Bilateral commitment was confirmed to overcoming the negative outcomes of the well-known anti-Russian provocation instigated by Georgian nationalists in the summer of 2019.’ I strongly emphasize that this never happened. There has been no bilateral commitment on this issue, and the events of 2019 were never brought up during the meeting in the first place. This is the Russian side’s interpretation,” Zurab Abashidze said.

The Prime Minister’s Special Representative stated that the online meeting, similar to the previous dialogues, was attended by representatives of Georgia’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economy.

29 November 2020 21:52