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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Russia refutes statements on wine embargo, hopes for better trade with Georgia

27.07.2016. Following the announcement that Georgia had supported the extension of EU sanctions against the Crimea and Sevastopol on July 20, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Yan Zelinsky, spoke of the necessity to introduce a ban on imports of Georgian wine and mineral water to Russia (read more: Russian deputies demand for new Georgian wine embargo; Abashidze is skeptical). However, both the Georgian and Russian sides later refuted this statement, highlighting that the countries remain important trade partners.

“The restrictions on products produced in Crimea and Sevastopol were introduced by the EU in 2014. Georgia joined them the same year. Last year they were extended, and now extended again automatically,” said Zurab Abashidze, the Georgian Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Russian Issues. “Thus, it would be illogical for Russia to react this way to a decision which was adopted in 2014.”

After a Russian media outlet reported Zelensky’s statement, the Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the State Duma, Aleksey Pushkov, also said that Russia does not consider it necessary to respond to the decision of Georgia and other countries with regards the extension of sanctions.

“Russia does not accept this step as friendly, but at the same time does not consider it necessary at this stage to respond to it,” Pushkov told the Ria Novosti News Agency. “First of all, it is a political step, largely dictated by the Georgian leadership to demonstrate their unity with the West, which was the initiator of these sanctions.”

Pushkov also noted that Russia is committed to the gradual normalization of relations with Georgia and added that “there are [in Georgia] forces that are interested in it as well.”

The Duma member expressed hope that after the parliamentary elections in Georgia this October, it will be possible to create better foundations for the normalization of Russian-Georgian relations across the board. “Recently, during our meetings with Georgian parliamentarians on international platforms, we have the impression that there is certain potential for the resumption of our inter-parliamentary relations, and Russia is ready for this," stated Pushkov.

Trade relations will naturally take one of the main roles in this issue. According to the latest data from the National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat), Georgia’s foreign trade turnover with Russia this January-June grew by approximately 16.5 percent compared to the same period of 2015, amounting to more than USD 390.3 million- 6.8 percent of the total foreign trade turnover of Georgia.

To date, Russia remains the largest importer of Georgian wine, having imported wine to a total cost of USD 22.3 million, which is USD 4 million more than in January-June 2015. Additionally, export of Georgian mineral waters to Russia rose by USD 607,000, amounting to approximately USD 18 million.

Diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia were terminated following the military conflict in 2008. At present, the dialogue between Russia and Georgia is supported by the Geneva International Discussions and regular meetings between the Georgian Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Russian Issues, Zurab Abashidze, and the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, Grigory Karasin.

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