MOSCOW, March 1 (RIA Novosti) – Russian and Georgian special envoys will hold a scheduled meeting in Prague on Friday aimed at normalizing bilateral ties in areas of trade, transport and culture, but avoiding the issue of Georgia’s breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
It will be a second meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and Georgian Prime Minister’s special envoy on Russian issues, Zurab Abashidze, since Tbilisi announced plans last November to restart its ties with Moscow “from a clean slate.”
The first meeting was held on December 14 in Geneva, where the parties agreed to meet every two months.
Karasin said on Monday that the sides had made progress in some areas and would continue efforts to maintain the positive trend “in a very delicate manner.”
For instance, Russia's consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said earlier this week it was ready to start talks with Georgian business on resolving the question of allowing Georgian wine and mineral water to be sold in Russia again, following a visit to Georgia by Russian specialists.
Russia also said it was ready in principle to consider discussing the restoration of regular direct air flights between Moscow and Tbilisi.
However, Tbilisi insists that the restoration of diplomatic relations with Moscow would be linked to the issue of Georgia’s territorial integrity as Georgia had lost one-fifth of its territory after South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away in the early 1990s.
Georgia broke off diplomatic ties with Russia after the two nations fought a brief war over South Ossetia in August 2008.
Moscow has signed economic and military agreements with both republics since recognizing them as independent shortly after the war, and keeps ruling out any negotiations on their current status.
Updated to correct reference to 2008 war.