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18 Apr, 2008 12:04

Russia and Georgia: friends again?

Russia is set to lift visa and postal restrictions on Georgia in a further thawing of relations between the countries. Imports of fresh food could also be allowed as Russian officials consider lifting a ban on Georgian produce.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said easing restrictions would benefit both sides.

“Normalisation of relations with Tbilisi, which the Russian side is very interested in, would meet the demands of Russians as well as Georgians,” he said.

President Putin is believed to have approved a set of measures aimed at restoring ties with Georgia.

Moscow began imposing restrictions two years ago when relations with Tbilisi deteriorated. The move to ease them covers the whole range of bans.

The move will be welcomed not only by Georgian citizens that have relatives in Russia but also by the country’s officials.

It is also reported that the official land crossing between Russia and Georgia, closed for reconstruction, will soon reopen.

The Foreign Ministry is now looking for a reciprocal response from Tbilisi.

In response Georgia should “take steps in the spirit of mutual respect and consider the legitimate interests of the other side in the area of security and regional cooperation in all respects,” a spokesman said.

Tbilisi, for its part, says Russia should drop plans to establish legal links with Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which it considers an integral part of its territory.

The Speaker of Georgia's parliament, Nino Burdzhanadze, said if Moscow is really sincere about lifting the restrictions “the Russian Federation should cancel the statement which was made two days ago concerning special relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”