Moscow interested in improving relations with Tbilisi — Russian deputy foreign minister

Moscow is interested in improving relations with Tbilisi to an extent that would be comfortable for Georgia, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told TASS on Wednesday after talks with Georgian prime minister’s special envoy for Russia Zurab Abashidze.

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 contacts,” he said.

“Russia is interested in improving relations with out Georgian neighbors to an extent that they are ready for,” Karasin added noting that Moscow is ready “to facilitate developing bilateral relations even in the absence of diplomatic relations.”

Georgia-NATO drills

Georgia-NATO joint military drills scheduled for March this year do not contribute to ensuring stability and strengthening trust in the South Caucasus, Karasin said.

The diplomat noted that the Russian side directly told Georgian colleagues about its concerns over NATO’s relations with Tbilisi. “We are concerned over 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 South Caucasus as a whole,” the diplomat stressed.

He added that “NATO’s large-scale drills do not add any optimism as well 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.”

Karasin said that it is important to understand Tbilisi’s strategic objectives. “We want them to assess more realistically the prospects of the situation in our bilateral relations and in the region as a whole,” he added.

Karasin-Abashidze format

On 26 August 2008 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed decrees on Russia’s recognition of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. On 2 September 2008 Tbilisi severed diplomatic relations with Russia over this. The “Karasin-Abashidze” format established in 2012 is the only direct dialogue channel between the officials of the two countries.