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Georgian FM says no alternative to dialogue with Russia

Georgian Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili said on Tuesday that she saw "no alternative" to dialogue with Russia after local media reported that the two countries suspended negotiations on trade issues.

"Despite all difficulties, Georgia's direct dialogue with Russia in the Abashidze-Karasin format will continue," Beruchashvili told journalists in Washington, referring to regular talks between the Georgian prime minister's special representative for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin.

During her visit to the United States, on January 31, the minister also confirmed that Tbilisi "has not suspended and will not suspend trade and economic relations with Russia".

The fact that there had been no meetings between the senior government representatives since last autumn did not mean that Georgia planned to cut its trade and economic ties with Russia, Beruchashvili said, noting that the republic "has not rejected the dialogue in the Abashidze-Karasin format, which has been successful for more than two years and already produced concrete results".

On January 29, Georgian media reported Beruchashvili as saying in an interview with Radio Liberty that Georgia and Russia suspended an informal dialogue on trade issues. The minister reportedly said she was "not optimistic" that the dialogue would resume anytime soon, describing the Russian market as "very unpredictable".

Georgian Agriculture Minister Otar Danelia on January 30 explained that Beruchashvili's words had been misinterpreted.

"The Georgian government separates political issues from trade and economic relations with Russia," he said. "We are not going to cut trade or dialogue with Russia, as tens of thousands of people, including peasants, farmers, entrepreneurs, businessmen and private sector representatives, benefit from these relations. We cannot stop these relations and the dialogue will continue."

Discussions between Abashidze and Karasin are held once a quarter starting from December 2012. The first meeting between the official representatives since hostilities over the bordering South Ossetia region flared in 2008 opened near Geneva on December 14, 2012. The next seven meetings were held in Prague in 2013 and 2014 to discuss economic, humanitarian and cultural cooperation of the two countries.

[Source: Itar Tass, Tbilisi, 03Feb15]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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