Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze and State Minister (equivalent of prime minister) Niko Lekishvili yesterday complained to visiting Russian Duma chairman Gennady Seleznev that Georgia has been practically "cut off from the Russian market." They noted that Russia has fallen to seventh place among Georgia’s trade partners, while Turkey now holds first place "because its market is open." Shevardnadze complained particularly of Russian barriers to traditional Georgian exports of fruit and vegetables, wine, and tea–of which Georgia used to be the Russian Federation’s chief supplier. (Interfax, Itar-Tass, ORT, December 10)
Also yesterday, Georgian officials announced that Moscow has rejected International Monetary Fund recommendations to restructure Georgian debts worth $147 million that stem from Russian loans in 1992-94. As per the IMF’s recommendations to a group of debtor and creditor countries, Georgia had proposed to Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Iran to restructure Georgian debts by means of a five year grace period for repayments on the principal and a reduction of annual interest to four percent from the usual seven. All the countries agreed except Russia. Turkmenistan is owed approximately $400 million by Georgia. (Financial Information Agency, December 10)
Ajarian Shot Across Georgia’s Bow?