American expert on Georgia, Lincoln Mitchell believes that visa liberalization between Georgia and the EU could help develop ties between the people in the conflict regions and the rest of the world that are not controlled by Moscow.
As for Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin’s statement that “people living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia should get visas to travel” and the Russian side will “raise this issue at all levels”, Mitchell told the Accent: “There is nothing surprising in Mr. Karasin’s remarks”.
“He more or less restated the Russian position on the two conflict regions”, he added.
“However, I am encouraged by the remarks because it demonstrates Russia’s concern that people in Abkhazia and South Ossetia will begin to see that a Georgian passport is a valuable travel document-much more valuable than any of their alternatives. That is a positive development for Georgia”, Mitchell told the Accent.
Georgian PM’s special representative for relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze met Grigory Karasin in Prague on February 7, as part of the informal direct bilateral dialogue launched between the two countries in late 2012.
“The EU’s statement on lifting visa requirements for Georgia, definitely, is a positive fact, Georgia has spent 5 years to achieve this result. Georgia has fulfilled all the tasks of the European Union. We continue our efforts in accordance with our plan. Relations between Georgia and Russia are underway in a different atmosphere and in accordance with other system. I have high hopes that the EU's decision will form the basis for the population of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to travel in a simplified manner. Any type of visa issuing to travel to Europe is complicated for them. With rare exceptions, they are not Georgian citizens. This is inhumane approach towards people. We will raise this issue at all levels, in order to be changed this attitude. This issue has already been raised in Geneva. People living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia should get visas to travel,” Karasin told Georgian journalists on February 7.