(Civil.Ge) — The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) announced on February 5, that “negotiations have been concluded and the conditions to implement the customs agreement signed by Georgia and Russia in 2011 are in place.”
The Swiss-mediated agreement between Tbilisi and Moscow signed on November 9, 2011, envisages deployment of complex systems for tracking and auditing of “all trade in goods that enters or exits predefined corridors”.
Two of these “corridors” run through Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, while the third one is situated alongside the Zemo Larsi-Kazbegi border crossing, on the undisputed section of Georgia-Russia border.
As part of the agreement, Georgia and Russia sealed deals in 2017 and 2018, respectively, with Geneva-based testing and inspection company, SGS to carry out cargo monitoring through the three “trade corridors”.
In the statement, the FDFA also noted that Switzerland “will continue to play an active role in this new phase,” by chairing a Joint Committee supervising the implementation of the agreement. It also informed that the first meeting of the Joint Committee, gathering Georgian, Russian and Swiss representatives, is scheduled in Geneva on February 6.
However, Russian media has been recently speculating on that “customs checkpoints” will be opened “along the borders” with the two breakaway regions, interpreting this as Tbilisi’s factual recognition of their “sovereignty.”
According to the 2011 agreement, monitoring should be carried out, among other means, also through the presence of neutral company representatives at entry/exit points of the three corridors, but not inside of these corridors, meaning that they will not be stationed inside the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia but situated well within Russia and Georgia.
Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani refuted the Russian media speculations as disinformation. Commenting on the issue from Washington, D.C., where his is currently on an official trip, Zalkaliani explained that “there has been no revision” of this document, nor do they plan to revise it and that “everything is in accordance” with the agreement between Georgia and Russia “just as it was signed in 2011.”
The same position was voiced by the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, saying that no changes have been made in the 2011 agreement since it was sealed, and that “no decision will and can be made at the expense of” Georgia’s “main priority” – its sovereignty and territorial integrity.