Lavrov: It’s impossible to work towards visa waiver for Georgia amidst absence of diplomatic relations
It’s impossible to work towards visa waiver for Georgia amidst absence of diplomatic relations between the two states,” Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, told Izvestiya newspaper.
When asked, whether Moscow was ready to lift visa requirements for Georgian citizens, Lavrov cited an example of EU visa waiver for Georgia, noting that both, Tbilisi and Brussels, did a great deal of work to achieve that. At the same time, Lavrov pointed out that ‘it’s impossible to tune up such a large-scale work between Russia and Georgia amidst absence of diplomatic relations, once broken by Saakashvili’s regime.”
He also reminded that RF President, Vladimir Putin didn’t exclude possible introduction of visa-free travel rules for Georgia on reciprocal basis.
“We are still open for a joint and comprehensive dialogue on related issues,” Lavrov said, reminding that in December 2015, Russia considerably eased entry rules for Georgian citizens. They can now visit Russia without any limitations, based on an invitation letter form a private person, organization or an alien with permanent residence.
According to Lavrov, the number of visas issued by Russia’s interests section at the Swiss Embassy in Tbilisi doubled last year. In addition, Russia is working towards visa liberalization for aircraft crews conducting flights between the two countries.
- Russia imposed visa requirements on Georgia in 2001. The regulations did not affect Abkhazia and South Ossetia (and, for a short time in 2004, Georgia’s Black Sea coast region Ajara). Georgia responded by restricting entry for Russian nationals.
- In 2002, Russia started issuing Russian passports to residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Today, over 90 percent of the two territories’ populations are citizens of the Russian Federation.
- In 2008, Georgia severed its diplomatic contacts with Russia, in protest against Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.
- In 2010, Georgia granted up to 90 days of visa-free access to its territory to residents of Russia’s North Caucasus. Residents of other Russian regions were allowed to obtain visas upon entering Georgia.
- In February of 2012, Georgia lifted visa requirements for all citizens of the Russian Federation.
- In December of 2015, Russia eased its entry regulations to allow Georgia nationals to obtain entry visas of any type (except for a tourism visa) based on an invitation letter from any Russian citizen, therewith cancelling the previous arrangement where the invitation could only be extended by a close relative.
- At a press conference in December of 2016, president Vladimir Putin allowed the possibility of a visa waiver for Georgian citizens.