Russian Envoy Warns Georgia to Expect “Unpleasant Surprises”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin spoke of “unpleasant surprises” from Russia for Georgia if the two countries do not develop mutual relations.

Karasin made the comment to RFE/RL, after meeting Zurab Abashidze, the Georgian Prime Minister's Special Representative for Relations with Russia, in Prague on February 27.

"My message is the same. We should continue to develop relations and I would like to warn my Georgian colleagues about possible unpleasant surprises, unpleasant for both countries," RFE/RL quoted Karasin.

He also told Russian media outlet TASS that Moscow is interested in improving relations with Tbilisi to an extent that is comfortable for Georgia.

Karasin described the meeting as comprehensive and constructive.

"We discussed many problems of bilateral relations and noted improvements in several practical spheres, including trade, tourism, air service and humanitarian contact," he said.

However, the Russian envoy believes that Georgia-NATO joint military drills scheduled for March this year do not contribute to ensuring stability and strengthening trust in the South Caucasus.

"We are concerned by statements made by Georgian politicians about expedited accession to the North Atlantic Alliance. This creates nervousness both in our relations and in the region of the South Caucasus as a whole," the diplomat said.

Karasin also stressed that NATO's large-scale drills “do not add any optimism because they do not contribute to ensuring stability and strengthening mutual trust in the region, especially since Georgia is trying to involve its neighbors — Armenia and Azerbaijan — in the maneuvers."

He added that the Georgian government should assess “more realistically the prospects of the situation in the bilateral relations and in the region as a whole.”

While commenting on the outcomes of the meeting in Prague, Zurab Abashidze said he does not know what Karasin meant when he warned Georgia about “unpleasant surprises.”

He said some issues were not included in the agenda of the meeting, but the Georgian side still raised them at the negotiating table.

"The format discusses issues such as trade-economic, transportation and humanitarian problems, but at the beginning of the meeting we also focused on the difficult situation in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions and on the grave human rights conditions there,” he said.

Abashidze said that the Georgian side also raised examples of gross violations of international norms and ignoring the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity on the occupied territories.

“In this context it was noted that the Geneva International Consultations is the main format for the discussion of such topics,” he said.

Abashidze also highlighted the number of Russian tourists in Georgia and noted the importance of the Prague format.

"It is important that there is such a communication format. We are in constant contact with our Western partners. They support this form of communication and channel,” he added.

The first Abashidze-Karasin meeting took place in Geneva on December 14, 2012.

Since 2013, the meetings have been held in Prague. The meetings constitute a direct dialogue between the two countries’ officials following the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, after which Georgia cut diplomatic ties with Russia.

By Thea Morrison

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28 February 2019 18:13