Borjomi and Barbed Wire: Nothing Changes at the Latest Karasin-Abashidze Talks


The Karasin-Abashidze meeting has finally taken place in Prague. The meeting between Zurab Abashidze, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Russian Issues, and Grigory Karasin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, was to be held in February. However, the Russian side asked to postpone it to early March. The meeting scheduled on March 4 and 5 was also put off as it turned out that Karasin was too busy at the time. Eventually, the meeting was planned for mid-March and the third try proved successful as the Russian diplomat managed to find some free time for Georgia.

It should be mentioned that together with the date changes of Karasin-Abashidze’s meeting, the themes to be discussed were also changed. For example, where in February the parties planned to discuss the issues of de-occupation and return of IDPs, by March the IDPs were substituted with Georgian “spies”, and this issue was later changed again to that of the renewed railway connection between Abkhazia. Finally, the main theme for negotiations at the meeting in Hotel Diplomat was decided as the so-called non-diplomatic remarks made by the Minister of Defense of Georgia, Tina Khidasheli.

“Every politician wants to highlight the fact that they are the toughest and most patriotic fighters against the Russian expansion. Your Minister of Defense called on the civilized world to unite against the Russian threat. We restrain ourselves now, but even our patience has limits,” Karasin told the journalists of TV Broadcaster Rustavi 2 before the meeting. Later, Zurab Abashidze confirmed that he had to listen to criticism from Karasin because of the comments made by the Defense Minister. However, he also noted that his arrival to Prague served the purpose of settling relations between the two countries and not for maintaining a confrontational regime. Tbilisi tried to defend Georgia and Tina Khidasheli from Karasin’s warnings, “His statement was not made in a diplomatic language,” said Chair of the EU Integration Committee, Levan Berdzenishvili on Karasin’s comment, adding that, “They do not talk like this with other countries, it seems they think of Georgia as a country that can be bullied easily.” Karasin also gave other warnings. He believes that in order to maintain future relations between Russia and Georgia, the law on occupation should be abolished. Although the Russian diplomat hasn’t yet specified what they plan to do if this demand is not fulfilled, it is clear why he mentioned the upcoming elections and the planned change of government.

Karasin’s “warning” and his demand for the abolition of the law on occupation once again convince us that Russia’s plans are unchanged. It does not matter who is the head of the government, be it Shevardnadze, Saakashvili or Kvirikashvili.

At every meeting held in Prague, whether diplomatically or not, Karasin suggests the same scenario: Let’s talk about everything –economics, sports, culture- but not Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Do not try to link this issue with the issue of mutual relations between Georgia and Russia- let’s be friends, have trade relations and cooperate as if Abkhazia and South Ossetia do not exist. Meanwhile, I will be friends with them as well, we will have trade and cooperation – as if Georgia does not exist either.

The meeting in Prague finally confirmed that Russia has achieved its goal – Tbilisi has begun to accept this formula. For Russia, it is of the chief importance that Georgia forgets its occupied territorie, that, as Karasin’s ‘chief’ Sergey Lavrov said: “Georgia should accept the new reality,” meaning that Russia will talk about Borjomi, wines and visas, but parallel to this will continue installing barbed wire fences and building roads, because this issue is of no concern to Georgia. This is what Russia said in 1994 and this is what it is saying today.

Zaza Jgarkava

17 March 2016 19:12