MOSCOW, March 2 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin met with Georgian prime minister’s special envoy on Russia, Zurab Abashidze in Prague on Friday to discuss visa regime, Georgia’s participation at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, wine exports to Russia, direct flights between Moscow and Tbilisi and other issues.
“Both sides are satisfied with the results [of the meeting], they are convinced that our unofficial contacts have a future. We tentatively agreed to hold the next meeting in May. Its location will be discussed later, but it might be Prague,” Karasin said after the talks.
He described the meeting as “constructive,” saying that it allowed making a step forward on a number of practical issues, such as the visa regime and resumption of direct flights between the two states.
“The Georgian side is interested in easing Russian visa regime for Georgian nationals. We noted that it is quite natural for two states with no diplomatic relations to have strict visa requirements. But, at the same time, we have extended the range of possibilities to visit Russia for various groups of Georgian residents. We will work on ways to further ease this regime. This is a homework that we should do at the inter-departmental level,” Karasin said.
“We’ve touched upon the resumption of direct flights between the two states and discussed ground transportation issues, too,” the Russian diplomat said.
The envoys have also discussed the possible lift of Russia’s ban on Georgian wine and mineral water. Russia’s consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said earlier this week it was ready to start talks with Georgian business on allowing Georgian wine and mineral water to be sold in Russia again, following inspections of Georgian enterprises by Russian specialists.
“[The inspections] were accompanied by outbursts of anger by [Georgian] President [Mikheil] Saakashvili, however, it did not prevent those inspections from being successful,” Karasin said. “The work [to lift the Russian ban] will continue.”
Russian chief consumers’ rights official Gennady Onishchenko said in early February the ban might be lifted “this spring.”
Abashidze also described the talks as “constructive” and “successful,” saying that the two sides have discussed the possibilities for Georgian athletes to take part in the Sochi Olympics.
“Representatives of the [two] states will join negotiations on this issue if needed,” he said.
Russia and Georgia severed diplomatic ties after Moscow recognized de-facto independent Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states following a brief military conflict. Georgia’s new government, elected in the October 1 polls, said normalizing ties with Russia was among its top priorities.
The first meeting between Russian and Georgian envoys on bilateral relations was held in Geneva on December 14. The sides agreed to hold such meetings once in two months.
A number of high-level informal contacts between Russia and Georgia have been held in the past months, including a brief meeting between Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his Georgian counterpart Bidzina Ivanishvili during a forum in Davos, a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II who paid a rare six-day visit to Moscow in January and a meeting of Russian and Georgian members of parliament at a PACE session in Strasbourg.