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    Visa-Free Regime Between Russia, Georgia Depends on Diplomatic Relations

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    Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigory Karasin stated that Russia has nothing against the visa-free regime with Georgia.

    TBILISI (Sputnik) — Russia has nothing against the visa-free regime with Georgia, but the issue is tied to diplomatic relations between the countries, Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigory Karasin said Tuesday.

    Earlier in the day, Karasin met with Zurab Abashidze, Special Representative of the Prime Minister of Georgia for relations with Russia to discuss trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian issues in Prague, Czech Republic.

    "Russia has nothing against the visa-free regime with Georgia," Karasin told journalists, noting though the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries at the moment.

    "To a certain extent, this issue is dependent on the diplomatic relations," Karasin added.

    Meanwhile, Georgia does not see a direct link between simplification or cancellation of visa requirements and the absence of diplomatic relations, Abashidze said citing as proof the unilateral restoration of visa-free travel for Russian citizens in 2009.

    "Besides, last year Russia managed to simplify issuing of visas for Georgian citizens making the diplomatic relations dispensable. If Russia makes a decision to simplify further of cancel the visa regime, we will welcome the move but this is entirely up to them," Abashidze told the Georgian TV company Rustavi2 in Prague.

    During his annual press conference in December 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not rule out the return of visa-free regime for Georgian citizens. At the moment Russians can travel to Georgia without obtaining a visa, but Georgian citizens need a visa to visit Russia.

    In August 2008, Georgia severed diplomatic relations with Russia in response to Moscow's recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, the representatives of the new Georgian government that came to power after the election in October 2012, named normalization of relations with Russia one of the top foreign policy priorities. At the moment the dialogue between Russia and Georgia is carried out within the Geneva discussions, addressing the consequences of the 2008 conflict, and regular meetings between Abashidze and Karasin.

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    visa-free regime, Grigory Karasin, Georgia, Russia
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