13 Jun 2019 21:56

Russian deputy FM welcomes Tbilisi's willingness to allow Russian experts to see R. Lugar Center

TBILISI. June 13 (Interfax) - Russian State Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin has welcomed Georgia's willingness to allow Russian experts to see the R. Lugar Center for Public Health Research outside Tbilisi.

"I thanked the Georgian side at today's meeting for the proposal that our experts visit the R. Lugar lab," Karasin said in an interview with the Georgian TV company Imedi on Thursday, in commenting on outcomes of his meeting with Georgian special prime ministerial representative Zurab Abashidze.

"This would be very good and justified, and this is welcomed," he said.

Karasin said Abashidze and he had agreed at their meeting on Thursday that, before visiting Georgia, Russian experts should clear all details with their Georgian partners.

"Experts should know what they are going to examine and why they should come. Experts are precisely the kind of people who don't believe in reports prepared by TV channels," Karasin said.

Russian experts would like to thoroughly study the lab's work, ask questions and receive convincing answers, which might prompt Russia to change its view on the lab's operations, Karasin said.

He refrained from saying exactly when such a preparatory meeting could take place, saying only that experts from the two countries should meet between themselves and plan and agree upon all details.

The R. Lugar Center was set up in Georgia with support from the United States in 2011. The Georgian Health Ministry said the facility has reported solely to the National Disease Control Center since 2013 and is financed from the national budget.

In response to concerns regarding the laboratory's operations aired by Russia, the Georgian government has asserted repeatedly that this facility is safe.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili said after visiting the R. Lugar Center last week that the lab is protected according to the highest standards, and concerns about its operations earlier voiced by neighboring countries are unfounded. She said the R. Lugar Center is a lab of the highest level in the region.