Russia hands over military base to Georgia

Russia has officially handed over to Georgia the 62nd military base in the country's southern city of Akhalkalaki. The withdrawal comes under an existing agreement between the two countries, signed nearly two years ago.

The base will be completely closed in October 2008. 

Russia committed itself to remove its military from Georgia in 1999 during an OSCE summit in Istanbul. But the issue remained a big sticking point in the relations between the two countries for quite a long time. 

The recent move is likely to improve Russia’s relationship with both Georgia and the West.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was in Moscow on Tuesday. Some are inclined to see symbolic significance in the fact that the withdrawal comes just a day after his visit.