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Karasin: Georgia is showing pragmatic approach to possibility to normalize relations with Russia

Russia and Georgia continue their dialogue. Now that the countries have no diplomatic relations, they can develop economic, trade, transport and humanitarian contacts, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said after his meeting with Georgia’s Special Representative for Relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze in Prague.

“Despite macroeconomic problems, our trade is not shrinking. The Georgians are showing a pragmatic attitude here. Our transport authorities have agreed to enlarge the motor traffic between the two countries. In this context, we have promised to ease visa procedures for Georgian drivers,” Karasin said.

He hopes that now that the Upper Lars-Kazbegi checkpoint will start working round the clock, cargo and passenger traffic between Russia and Georgia will grow.

According to Karasin, the Russian authorities are ready to consider liberalizing visa regime for Georgian citizens wishing to visit Russia.

“We have come out of the deadlock we have been over the last five-seven years due to former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili. It is very important that the Russians no longer regard the Georgians as enemies. Our authorities and people want to improve their relations with Georgia. So, we will work towards this end,” Karasin said.

He quoted Abashidze as saying that almost 70% of the Georgians want to contact with Russia despite the opposition’s efforts to set them against the country.

The key obstacle here, according to Karasin, is the absence of diplomatic relations. “Today we grant visas to some 22,000 Georgians a year but we are considering ways to liberalize this process,” Karasin said.

Georgia severed its diplomatic relations with Russia in 2008. Recently the sides started negotiations to normalize their relations, with the talks termed as Karasin-Abashidze format and aimed to intensify trade, transport and cultural-humanitarian contacts.

The next Karasin-Abashidze meeting is scheduled for early 2016.

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