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13 Dec, 2008 03:53

Swiss play go-betweens in Georgia row

Switzerland is set to represent Russia's consular interests in Georgia – under an agreement signed in Moscow on Saturday at a meeting of the Swiss and Russian Foreign Ministers.

And in a mirror arrangement, Georgia will be represented by the Swiss in Moscow.  Tbilisi will have a separate desk at the Embassy, manned by Swiss officials.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Swiss counterpart Micheline Calmy-Rey will discuss “the current status and the future of bilateral relations in political and several practical spheres of cooperation,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.

In particular the exchange of notes related to the intergovernmental agreement would be an important event in bilateral relations. Thereby Switzerland will represent Russia's interests in Georgia,” Nesterenko said.

Moscow lauds Switzerland's readiness to play this role,“ he said, adding, ”The agreement envisages that a Russian desk at the Swiss Embassy in Tbilisi will start operating in the near future.

The Swiss government recently approved a draft agreement with Moscow and Tbilisi and has asked the Swiss Foreign Minister to sign the documents with his Russian and Georgian counterparts.

Georgia cut off diplomatic ties with Russia after the start of the South-Ossetian war in August. Moscow has since then recognized the independent status of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, much to Georgia's disapproval.

The Kremlin had asked the Swiss to represent its interests in Georgia. In October, Berne agreed in principle, provided that Georgia did not object. Two separate drafts have been prepared for each country.

Security and visas

Russian and Swiss officials will also discuss European security at Saturday’s meeting.

They will pay special attention to developments and stabilisation in the Caucasus, including international aspects of the issue,” Nesterenko said.

Current Russian-Swiss relations show stable positive dynamics as evidenced primarily by intensive political dialogue at the top level,” he said.

Also, with Switzerland joining the Schengen Zone, Russia will look to discuss visa relations between Berne and Moscow.

Lavrov and his Swiss counterpart Micheline Calmy-Rey will discuss the drafting of intergovernmental agreements on simplification of visa formalities and on readmission, which are expected to be ready for signing in the near future, as well as the overall visa situation in connection with Switzerland's accession to the Schengen agreement starting from December 12,” Nesterenko said.